Oral Answers to Questions — Motor Cars (Home Sales and Exports)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th April 1970.

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Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South 12:00 am, 27th April 1970

asked the Minister of Technology, in view of the declining motor-car exports, if he will now take steps to stimulate total production and to recover the drop of 10 per cent. in export figures, increase home-market sales above the rate of 1 million motor-cars annually, and to prevent further price rises affecting all markets; and whether he will make a post-Budget statement on the prospects of the industry.

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

Car exports in 1969 were at record levels Exports in the first three months of 190 were higher in value than in the corresponding months of 1969. Home market sales show some improvement over 1969 and I expect the 1970 total to be appreciably above 1 million vehicles.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

Is it not a fact that the reaction of the motor industry to the Chancellor's Budget Statement was wholly bad and that the industry has condemned it? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the motor industry has estimated that to resume the growth of exports it will require a home market of British manufactured cars totalling 1· 25 million, whereas the present rate is less than 1 million? Will he enjoin the Chancellor greatly to expand the home market for British cars?

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

I agree with the hon. gentleman in that any unjust criticism of the Chancellor's Budget must be described as bad. It is understandable that this industry wishes to press its case. As for exports, if the hon. Gentleman acquaints himself with the remarkable annual increase that has taken place in exports over the last two or three years, he will see that the extent of the home market does not preclude a most rapid increase in exports.

Photo of Mr Will Howie Mr Will Howie , Luton

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the more satisfactory figures which he has mentioned include, however, a further increase in the proportion of the home market being won by our foreign competitors? Is not one of our problems the fact that our home industry has not quite been able to fight off these other people?

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

This is a matter for free competition. We of course have every opportunity in our home market to beat these other countries. It is the duty of manufacturers to try to secure the orders which foreign competitors are securing even in our home market. On the other hand, we should never lose sight of the record level of our invasion into other markets for motor cars.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the " Little Neddy " report on the motor industry predicted that unless home manufacture exceeded 1·1 million units this year, investment would be jeopardised in this industry for the next few years? Does he believe that home production will exceed the minimum figure set down by the " Little Neddy? "

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

Yes, Sir. I believe that there is every prospect of that figure being exceeded.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

asked the Minister of Technology whether he is aware that agencies in California for sale of favourite British sports cars, details of which have been sent to him, and similar British Leyland Motor Corporation models have been cancelled due to delivery times often exceeding six months, caused by strikes and other stoppages and disturbances; if he will now take steps to prevent further losses in overseas markets and harmonise relations in the motor and allied industries; and whether he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

I am aware that delivery delays are being experienced for some British cars. These delays arise partly from labour disputes; and partly from heavy demands for some models exceeding available capacity. Manufacturers are aware of the problem and have assured me that they are doing all they can about it.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

Why does the right hon. Gentleman continue to whitewash the gross indiscipline which exists in certain quarters? Is he aware that this painstakingly built up market for certain British sports cars in America is now prejudiced by cancellations through agencies coast to coast in America because British cars are not being delivered owing to strikes in Coventry and elsewhere? Will he come to Coventry to learn the facts of motor car life?

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

Only the hon. Gentleman would pronounce confidently on all the labour disputes in the motor industry and the appropriate area for directing responsibility in a supplementary question. I fear that I could not do so.

Photo of Mr Maurice Edelman Mr Maurice Edelman , Coventry North

Is not the truth of the matter the fact that these delays in supply are due to the unprecedented demand for these superb and popular motor cars, most of which are made in my constituency? Is it not deplorable that the hon. Gentleman should, by this Question which will undoubtedly get the publicity which his Questions usually receive talk down the British motor industry in this way?

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

The answer is, " Yes, Sir " to both parts of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

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

What effect does the right hon. Gentleman think it would have had on the labour disputes in this industry if the White Paper entitled " In Place of Strife " had been implemented?

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

It would no doubt have been helpful, which is more than can be said of some of the lucubrations on the subject made public by hon. Gentlemen opposite.