In the first nine months of this year, import penetration of the United Kingdom car market was 33 per cent. compared with 26·5 per cent. in the corresponding period in 1974. During January-September 1975 exports of passenger motor cars was £381·1 million compared with imports of £384·2 million. This compared with the corresponding period of 1974 of exports of £317·7 million and imports of £256·4 million.
During the same period, the positive contribution to the balance of payments by the motor vehicle industry as a whole has increased substantially.
I welcome that information, but does my right hon. Friend know that some of us recognise that the subject of import controls on cars is complex, especially in view of the application of the United Autoworkers to the American International Trade Commission with allegations of the dumping of British cars? Does he realise that the problems of imports is aggravated by a possible last minute rush by importers who fear that controls will be introduced? Does he not agree that exports would be rather more significant if an improved contribution were made by the American multi-national corporations based in this country?
The situation regarding imports and exports in the British car industry is complex. My hon. Friend is right in recognising that we have a favourable balance in the car trade with the United States of America. We import very little and export about £80 million worth of cars a year. There is a problem and a danger of anti-dumping action being taken by the United States authorities. We certainly do not want that to happen.
The policies of the international car companies in the United Kingdom are a matter of considerable importance in terms of not only general employment and investment, but any restrictions by the parent companies on the marketing arrangements of their subsidiaries. This is a subject that various Governments have discussed with the major United States motor car manufacturers, and assurances have been given that there would not be objectionable restrictions.
As I have said on so many other occasions, the degree of penetration achieved by imports this year is too high. It is up to the industry, both employees and management, with, I hope, the help of the British consumer, to see that the balance is changed.
My right hon. Friend's Department is considering selective import controls for the motor car and other industries. Is he aware, however, that there is a type of import control that the consumer can exercise, and that is to buy British? If we did that for cars and other products, not only should we be helping the balance of payments, but solving the problems of unemployment and inflation. We do not want to export unemployment, but we certainly do not want to import it.
My hon. Friend speaks with great force and relevance on this subject. There is an awful lot that the people of this country can do for themselves if only they have the will and the sense to do it.