HC Deb 17 March 1952 vol 497 cc1929-31
72. Mr. Fenner Brockway

asked the Minister of Supply whether he will increase the quota of motorcars for sale in this country in view of the decreased opportunity for sale in the export market.

74. Miss Elaine Burton

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that the import cuts announced in Australia will cut by 80 per cent. the imports there of motorcar bodies and motorcycles; and if he will make a statement on the position arising therefrom with regard to the home market.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

Although full information is not yet available, it is clear that the Australian import restrictions are bound to have serious repercussions upon the motor and motorcycle industries in the United Kingdom. This development accentuates the necessity for manufacturers to intensify their efforts to expand exports to other markets. I am in touch with the motor industry about this problem.

Mr. Brockway

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the motorcar production firms now have their floors blocked with manufactured cars which they cannot sell, and that while those floors are blocked in that way it will be impossible for those firms to do alternative work on Government supplies?

Miss Burton

Will this cut in imports affect all vehicles or will it not affect vehicles exported c.k.d.? Some of our firms in Coventry have assembly lines over there which could cope with c.k.d. vehicles.

Hon. Members

What are "c.k.d. vehicles"?

Mr. Sandys

It will affect the c.k.d.—that is "completely knocked down"—vehicles to a lesser extent than other ones.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell

Will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Australian Government to try to relax their import restrictions on cars?

Mr. Sandys

That is not really a matter for me.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Will my right hon. Friend press whoever is the Minister concerned to differentiate between cars that are subject to existing contracts and future ones, because a first rule of trade is broken if the Australian Government are allowed, without pressure from this Government, to break those contracts?

Mr. Sandys

I did see a Question by my hon. Friend to the President of the Board of Trade a few days ago on that matter.

Mr. Ralph Assheton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great deal of time and manpower are being wasted on repairing very old motorcars, and that, perhaps, some steps could be taken in this situation to supply rather more to the home market, and thus possibly save the economy of our country considerable waste?

Mr. Sandys

Yes, I well appreciate the position but to decide to increase the quota for the home market does imply an increased use of steel for home consumption, with a corresponding decrease in the amount of steel available to be used for our exports at this critical moment in our balance of payments. It is, therefore, a decision which cannot be taken lightly.

Mr. Brockway

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency workers have been on short time in the car industry from 3rd December because the export trade has collapsed, and that that situation has been made still worse by the Australian and South African decisions? Will he, therefore, now allow those cars to be sold in the home market?

Mr. Sandys

Of course, short-time working in the motor industry has been going on much longer than since 3rd December. As I said in my original reply, the Australian action will have serious repercussions upon our export trade in motorcars, and that is a matter which I am discussing at the moment with the motor industry. I do not know about the particular conditions in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.