HC Deb 14 February 1956 vol 548 cc2151-3
20. Mr. Chapman

asked the President of the Board of Trade what discussions he has had with the motor car industry regarding the level of its exports in 1956.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Export prospects for motor cars are discussed in the day-today contacts between the Board of Trade and the industry: the subject was also examined at the last meeting of the National Advisory Council for the Motor Manufacturing Industry on 30th November, 1955.

Mr. Chapman

Does that reply mean that, following what one can only call the very disappointing response of the motor car industry in 1955, when it was completely feather-bedded by huge deposits on the home market, the Board of Trade is taking no action to see that that situation does not recur in 1956?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The view of the Society of Motor Manufacturers, expressed on 21st January in the Financial Times,was that the export of motor vehicles in 1956 would be higher than the record level achieved in 1955.

Mr. Jay

Is the President aware that in the opinion of many observers, both British and American, in North America there is a large market open to British cars which at present is largely going to the Volkswagen as a result of lack of effort by our manufacturers?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Yes, I am aware of the various comments made about British manufacturers. At the same time we have a very fine record in the export markets, and we should give some credit to the very great achievements by that industry.

Mr. Nabarro

Is it not a fact that one cannot sell British cars abroad on a greater scale by any decree or regulation of the British Government?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It is true that there is a limit to what Governments can do.

Mr. Bowles

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been drawn to the proposed increased freight rates across the North Atlantic which are to start on 1st April, and which will have a deleterious effect on the prospect of exporting more cars in 1956?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It is clear that freight rates are an important factor in this as in other matters.

Mr. Edelman

Despite the Minister's complacency, is he aware of the great anxiety in Coventry which arises out of the proposed dismissal of more than 2,500 motor workers, which will inevitably result in a decline in output? As a matter of high national importance, will he consult his colleagues in the Government to work out for the motor industry a policy which will result in increased exports?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not think that the Government are called upon at present to intervene to sustain the home market.