Manufacturing Trade

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East 12:00 am, 5th June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the United Kingdom's surplus or deficit in manufacturing trade with the European Economic Community and the rest of the world, respectively, in the most recent annual period for which figures are available.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

In the 12 months ending March 1985 there was a deficit on trade in manufactures with the other members of the Community of just under £8 billion. With the rest of the world there was a surplus of £3·5 billion.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

In view of this horrific trade deficit with the Common Market, which is equivalent to a loss of 800,000 British jobs, does my hon. Friend agree that there is an urgent need for a full-scale inquiry into why our trade with the Common Market is so appalling and why, according to an answer that my hon. Friend gave me the other day, our share of the Common Market's market for manufactured goods is less than it was the year before we joined?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

It is only rarely that I do not agree with my hon. Friend, but this is one of those rare occasions. He was a member of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry which examined this matter last year, and the Secretary of State replied to its report a year ago. I must point out that 46 per cent., of British exports went to Community countries.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East

Answer the question.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I should love to answer the question if I were allowed to.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Member for Newport:, East (Mr. Hughes) should allow the Minister to answer.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

It is essential to look at all the facts affecting our trading position and not take any one area or any one component of the trading figures in isolation.

I repeat that 46 per cent, of total British exports went to the Community last year, compared with 30 per cent, in 1970.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Education and Employment)

Perhaps the Minister will come down from the clouds of theory and look at real closures. I refer him to the closure of Philips in Brighouse and the impending closures of Philips establishments in other parts of the country, with the result that manufacturing capacity in washing machines, tumble driers and television sets is being taken back to Italy. What does the Minister intend to do about closures, which take more jobs away from us with every day that passes?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I am sure the hon. Gentleman welcomes the fact that in the last quarter the volume of our manufacturing exports increased by 12 per cent., which was a great increase, and that our exports are running at extremely good figures. It must be good for British industry to be competitive, and to be able to export competitively and profitably.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

Does the Minister accept that the House is intelligent enough to read both sides of the trading account? Bearing in mind that the Minister of State told the House on 1 May that every 1 per cent, increase in import penetration cost the country 250,000 jobs, what connection does the right hon. Gentleman now make between our record trade deficit with the European Community and the record unemployment that we must now endure?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

The House must also understand that the United Kingdom is and has been in trade surplus for many years. That was not a factor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oil."] Opposition Members attack whatever commodity suits them. [Interruption.] We have heard it all before. Many Opposition Members want us to leave it in the North sea. As hon. Members want to talk about manufacturing, let me tell them that Britain sends 39 per cent, of its exports of manufactured goods to the other Community countries, compared with 29 per cent. 15 years ago. That is a massive increase in exports of manufactures, and many thousands of British jobs depend upon it.