Motor Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 12th December 1983.

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Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham 4:52 pm, 12th December 1983

I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) on initiating this debate. It was agreeable to Opposition Members to hear such a hymn of praise to public investment in the motor industry.

A little under two years ago, I visited a large Nissan car factory just north of Tokyo, where I was able to study a modern manufacturing miracle at first hand. The Japanese car industry did not exist 25 years ago, but since then it has become the world's largest car manufacturer.

As Japan's fortunes have risen, this country has been sitting on the other end of the see-saw and our industry has been in decline. The hon. Gentleman told us how badly we have done since 1972, which was the peak year for output in the passenger car industry.

Since 1972, despite this year's welcome upturn, we have lost nearly one-half of our total output, and there has been a fall in employment commensurate with that loss. We have lost a huge proportion of our market share, at times approaching 60 per cent. of the domestic market.

The components industry, for perfectly rational economic reasons, has followed the car industry's fortunes. Firms such as Lucas and GKN have closed their British capacity to move their operations to new plants on the continent. We all know of Dunlop's recent, shameful history. We know, as the hon. Gentleman said, that whereas at one time the car industry was a major earner of foreign exchange, the picture is now different. A deficit of £2·3 billion reflects the fact that the cars we export are barely one-quarter of the value of the cars we import.