Orders of the Day — Supply.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th May 1938.

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Photo of Sir Ronald Cross Sir Ronald Cross , Rossendale 12:00 am, 24th May 1938

The balance of trade is being very carefully watched by my right hon. Friend, who does not intend to be caught napping or to be caught on the eve of an economic crisis, but there is no real danger.

The export of German motor cars to this country was discussed. Hon. Members asked whether there was not a certain amount of subsidisation going on in respect of those cars. There certainly has been a very large increase in the imports in the first four months of this year, as hon. Members are aware. The comparative figures are 3,183 German cars this year as against 1,049 last year and smaller figures in previous years. As to a subsidy, it is only right that I should put in the declaration of the German Government on this subject. They always deny that they give any governmental subsidy, but they do say—my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey and Otley (Sir C. G. Gibson) gave us a good deal of information about the matter— that their industries impose a levy on themselves in order to offset the disadvantages which German exporters suffer as a consequence of the artificially high value of the mark. That system has been going on for some years, but we have no detailed information about it. The Opel motor car is manufactured by the General Motors Company, and their English branch import it. They assure us that, as I think has been stated before in reply to a Parliamentary Question, these imports are intended to cover sales for some time ahead and to allow for re-exports. Indeed, only 13 motors came in from Germany in the course of last month.

I ought to mention in this connection that German imports to this country as a whole have declined very considerably this year as against last year, and there is no evidence that German subsidised imports are constituting any real threat to British industry. In these circumstances no drastic action is called for now, but the matter will be very carefully watched in case measures should be necessary. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) compared the price of the Opel car with the price of a United Kingdom car of 12 horse-power. I understand that the nominal horse-power of the car to which he referred is 11.1, ranking as 12 horse-power, but that in fact the capacity of such a car is considerably less than that of an English car of 12 horsepower. It is rated so high owing to the peculiar system of reckoning employed here, known as the Royal Automobile Club system. The hon. Member for Gower also said that a car costing 2,100 reichmarks in Germany was equivalent to a car costing £175 in this country.