Motor Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Technology – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1 December 1969.

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Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Bedfordshire South 12:00, 1 December 1969

asked the Minister of Technology if he will set up a Departmental Committee to look in detail into the problems and future of the motor industry.

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Stretford

No, Sir. These subjects are constantly under examination in the Motor Manufacturing E.D.C., on which the Department is represented. My right hon. Friend keeps closely in touch with developments through his regular meetings with the major firms, individually and collectively, and through the National Advisory Council for the Motor Manufacturing Industry, of which he is Chairman.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Bedfordshire South

We know all that. Does not my hon. Friend agree that there is a need to consider the long-term problems of this industry? Does he not agree that it is high time that it ceased to be the whipping boy of the economy? Does he not also agree that his Department has certain responsibilities for seeing that Treasury measures are used to counter the seasonal cycle in the industry? Does he not also accept that his Department has a responsibility in connection with problems such as comparative wage rates between different areas in relation to this industry?

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Stretford

I cannot entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The question of wage rates is not a matter for the Ministry of Technology. I cannot agree with him, either, that the industry is a whipping boy of the national economy. But with regard to my hon. Friend's last point, the Motor Manufacturing E.D.C. has recently submitted a report to the National Economic Development Council on the problems and prospects of the industry for the next five years. This is now being examined, and I should have thought that it would meet the main points raised in my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

Photo of Mr Maurice Edelman Mr Maurice Edelman , Coventry North

On the technical aspect of this matter, has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the safety factors which are now statutorily required in respect of motor cars by the United States Administration? Has he had discussions on this matter with British motor manufacturers, in the interests of future exports?

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Stretford

This matter has been drawn to our attention and has been discussed.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

Is not the answer quite simple? Is it not that the Government should stop interfering with the motor car industry?

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Birmingham, Perry Barr

asked the Minister of Technology, what measures he is taking to assist in improving the efficiency of the motor manufacturing industry.

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Stretford

As its production and export achievements show, the British motor manufacturing industry is a large and efficient one, and the managements of the companies are constantly striving to improve efficiency still further. The Department keeps in constant touch with them in order to be aware of their problems and to give the fullest possible assistance.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Birmingham, Perry Barr

Will my hon. Friend place in the Library of the House of Commons the report of the Motor Manufacturing Economic Development Council which he is at present studying? Will he also make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the effect that we need to stimulate the whole market over the coming months in order to combat the disparity in seasonal sales between winter and summer?

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Stretford

I am sure that the report to which I referred in my earlier reply will be made available to hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Stretford

At this moment I cannot say precisely. On my hon. Friend's point about the treatment of the industry on the economic front by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am sure that my hon. Friend is well capable of bringing that to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Since this was one of the first industries to be restructured by the I.R.C., what follow-up has been done to see whether the effects of that restructuring proved to be right or wrong?

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Stretford

One of the best tests of the effectiveness of restructuring, or, indeed, of any other economic measures taken in connection with the motor industry is to consider the present trends in export figures. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will be delighted to know that the annual value this year is running at the rate of £1,000 million, one of the very highest figures ever recorded.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

Is there any evidence that current restrictions at home have hampered our exports of motor cars? Is there not at least some evidence that some of the trouble with our home market is the inability of the industry to compete with foreign imported cars?

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Stretford

I have given the rate at which exports are running. In the present year, about half the total number of cars, and over 40 per cent. of commercial vehicles, are being produced for export. This is an increase on last year's figures.