Single European Market

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th June 1991.

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Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton 12:00 am, 5th June 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the preparedness of British industry for the completion of the single European market.

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

British industry is well informed about the single European market. Many firms are taking positive steps to meet the opportunities and challenges that it is bringing.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Will the Minister admit that his Department is no thoroughbred when it comes to informing British companies about the single market? A recent survey showed that only 8 per cent. of those companies have any idea of what will happen to them when the starting stalls are opened. Is that not another reason why the Tories should be sent off to the knackers yard?

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on including an appropriate series of analogies such as thoroughbreds on this day. I do not know whether he is aware of what will happen shortly after 3·45 pm. I am happy to say that our surveys show that there is 98 per cent. awareness in British industry of the single market as a result of our highly successful and appreciated advertising campaign. Over 50 per cent. of firms have said that they have taken, are taking or intend to take action to meet the changes brought about by the single market.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

What advice are the Government giving to the Japanese-owned British car manufacturers as to how they can take advantage of the single market, bearing in mind that, as the Minister knows, discussions are taking place now about the fact that the production of the Japanese-owned firms will be included within a collective EEC import quota? Does he appreciate that, instead of encouraging free trade, it will discourage any Japanese industrialists from investing in Britain?

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

I am happy to say that one Japanese company—Nissan—is exporting over 80 per cent. of its production. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, we have made it clear that there is no doubt that Japanese-marked cars produced in Britain should be freely traded in the Community in the same way as cars produced by United States-owned firms.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy

Given the critical importance of British Steel to British manufacturing industry's competitive position, why are the Government steadfastedly refusing to allow the House to debate the issue? Does the Minister accept that the Government hold a special share in British Steel and guarantees from that company? Given that Ravenscraig is profitable and that there were other potential bidders for that part of British Steel, will the Minister call in that company and ask the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the position?

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

I am somewhat surprised that the hon. Gentleman thinks that a debate on the steel industry is so urgent when it is not a subject chosen for debate this very day by Her Majesty's Opposition. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that it is important that British industry should have available competitive and efficient supplies of steel. I feel that I hardly need remind the hon. Gentleman of how much more competitive and efficient the British steel industry has become since privatisation.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

Does not my hon. Friend consider discriminatory and extremely dangerous the proposals made by the European Commission to count cars with a high European content made in Britain in Japanese-owned factories as Japanese and therefore not to allow them to be sold freely in Europe? Is not it the case that European and especially British consumers have been ripped off for far too long by import barriers which have been lobbied for by inefficient, subsidised and protected European manufacturers such as Fiat and Renault? Is not it about time that such companies put their own houses in order rather than expecting the British consumer to foot the bill for them?

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise from what I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have said that there is no possibility of what he suggested about Japanese-marked cars made in Britain happening. We cannot anticipate what the European Commission will finally propose in that regard, but I repeat what I said earlier—as far as we are concerned, Japanese-marked cars made in Britain must be allowed to trade freely throughout the Community.