Motor Cars

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd November 1975.

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Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton 12:00 am, 3rd November 1975

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will make a further statement on motor car exports and imports.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

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.

Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton

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?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

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.

Photo of Mr Michael Shersby Mr Michael Shersby , Hillingdon Uxbridge

Is the Secretary of State aware of the serious concern about the imports of motor cars from Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia? Does he think his statements on dumping have either increased or diminished the imports of motor cars from those countries?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

I do not think that we should dismiss the importance of any particular source of supply, but the hon. Member must see this matter in perspective. I believe that 1·3 per cent of vehicles are coming from Eastern Europe. I am more concerned about the 33 per cent. coming from Western Europe and Japan.

Photo of Mr Ioan Evans Mr Ioan Evans , Aberdare

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.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

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.