Spain's recent decision to open reduced-duty quotas for certain cars, and her commitment to introduce VAT before the end of next year, will significantly improve access for British exports. The current negotiations for Spain's accession to the European Community offer the best means of obtaining further improvements.
Notwithstanding that reply, Spain's accession is still some way off and the present arrangements manifestly benefit Spain, to the grave disadvantage of British manufacturing in the car industry, particularly in the west midlands. To accelerate Spain's acceptance of greater equality of tariff arrangements, can my hon. and learned Friend actively pursue the question whether there should be a restriction on the number of cars coming into this country until Spain agrees to similar tariff levels?
My hon. Friend would get the problem into a little more perspective if he realised that our visible trade with Spain has been roughly balanced over the past few years. In January and February of this year there was a surplus on visible trade. However, I believe that the agreement that has been negotiated between the Community and Spain will offer significant further opportunities to British motor cars. I am sure that British Leyland has two world beaters that will sell effectively on the Spanish market.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not appreciate that the tariff disparity is not confined to the motor vehicle industry? British-made footwear exported to Spain faces a tariff of 32 per cent., against a tariff of 4·8 per cent. the other way. Does he appreciate that even the much heralded concessions in relation to motor vehicles apply to a mere 15,000 cars over a 12-month period for the whole of the EC? Does he not appreciate that the British car industry cannot wait for a fair deal until Spain ultimately joins the Community?
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had studied the problem closely, he would realise that British Leyland has not had a developed retail dealer network in Spain for the past six or seven years, so it will be a year or two before it can take advantage even of the concessions that have been extracted from Spain.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that in the west midlands many people are becoming increasingly angered by the diplomatic ditherings through the EC on this issue and that many others are becoming painfully aware that, were this country not a member of the EC, the matter could be negotiated unilaterally?
I am unaware of what diplomatic ditherings my hon. Friend refers to. If he had been in the Chamber earlier he would have recognised that export engineering orders are up and that the output of Jaguar is up. My hon. Friend's gloom is not justified.
Does the Minister accept that there is real concern about the matter in the car and car components industries? Will he bear in mind what his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhpampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said about the dithering on this matter? Will he also consider the proposal of by his hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) that, until the matter is settled, there should be some restriction on the import of cars from Spain?