Chemicals

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th January 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Bernie Grant Mr Bernie Grant , Tottenham 12:00 am, 13th January 1988

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by how much the trade balance in chemicals changed between the second quarter of 1979 and the second quarter of 1987; arid what are the comparable figures for the average, best and worst performing Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development country.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by how much Britain's share of world trade in chemicals changed between 1979 and 1986; and what was the comparable figure in the best, average and worst performing Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development country.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

Britain's trade balance in chemicals, as measured by the ratio of our exports to our imports, fell by 9 per cent. between 1979 and 1986. This was much the same as the OECD average. Among the top 10 OECD exporters of chemicals, France saw a 4 per cent. increase in her export-import ratio and the United States saw a fall of 39 per cent. Throughout this period the United Kingdom has had a substantial surplus on her trade in chemicals.

Between 1979 and 1986 Britain's share of OECD exports of chemicals was unchanged at 9·5 per cent. Among the OECD's major exporters of chemicals, the changes ranged from an increase of 13 per cent. in Japan's share to a decrease of 13 per cent. in the share held by the United States.

Photo of Mr Bernie Grant Mr Bernie Grant , Tottenham

Is not the true situation that over the period imports have risen twice as fast as exports? Is this not yet another example of Government neglect of a wealth-producing manufacturing industry?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. This is a success story, again. There are many success stories that we do not hear about. The United Kingdom has a substantial surplus on her trade in chemicals. It is the number one export industry in the manufacturing sector. We ought to tell the world, as I am doing and as the Opposition ought to be doing, that we are doing well.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

What about No. 7?

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

Order. No. 6 comes before No. 7.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Is the Minister not misleading the House by simply saying that we have a surplus in chemical exports as opposed to imports, when that surplus is rapidly diminishing? Since 1979 imports have increased by over 50 per cent. The Minister should give both sides of the story. He should point out to the House that the chemical industry's share of the British market is steadily declining and that, because of very low investment in chemicals, we are gradually falling behind the rest of the world.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interest in chemical matters, but in this instance he is wrong. In proportionate terms, as I said in the previous answer, we are comparable to many other OECD countries. This is an important industry, and it is doing well. It is achieving great success at home and abroad, and we ought to congratulate it on its success rather than whinge about it.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

Does my hon. Friend agree that, despite attempts by Opposition Members to poor-mouth the chemical industry, it is showing consistent success? If they are worried about lack of investment in the industry, will he draw to their attention the investment of well over £100 million by ICI, on the border of my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Northavon (Mr. Cope)?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

My hon. Friend is quite right. ICI has achieved a great deal of success. I opened a plant in Fleetwood not so long ago, which again indicates a very great success. I repeat that this success story ought to be told to all who can hear.

Mr. Helfer:

The Liberal Benches are empty. Mr. Speaker: I know. I cannot help it.