HC Deb 15 March 1956 vol 550 cc528-33
3 and 4. Mr. Moss

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what proportion of their output has been exported by leading British motor car firms in each year from 1950 to 1955;

(2) the value of exports of motor cars in each year from 1950 to 1955; and what proportion this was of the value of total production in each year.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

As the Answer contains a number of figures, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Moss

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what steps he has taken, or proposes to take, to stimulate those firms which have done relatively badly in the export trade? Is he aware that, taking 1951 as a base, the whole of the extra cars produced since that year have remained on the home market?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I would rather not comment upon the figures. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would study those contained in the Answer which will be circulated.

Mr. Jay

Does the President really think it sufficient for the Government to create unemployment in the motor car industry and just hope that exports will increase? Can he tell us a single step that he is taking to encourage exports?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I have considered the proposals to ration steel which were put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, and I have rejected them.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Does my right hon. Friend agree that exports of commercial vehicles have been increasing every year, and now amount to about £85 million per annum, and that the exports of parts and accessories have also been increasing, and now amount to about £106 million a year? Is it not a fact that, taking the whole field of the motor industry, the value of exports has been going up year by year?

Mr. Thorneycroft


Mr. Jay

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I made no proposal for rationing steel? If his other information is as inaccurate as that it is not very sound.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I find it very helpful that no suggestion to ration steel is being put forward as the official policy of the Opposition.

Following is the Answer:

United Kingdom exports of new cars and chassis Percentage of total value of production exported
£ million
1950 116.6 66
1951 1191 65
1952 111.3 53
1953 103.9 45
1954 118.5 44
1955 122.5 38

The export figures are those recorded in the trade returns. The proportion of production exported has been calculated from returns by car manufacturers of the value of their total and export deliveries of motor cars, parts and accessories.

It would be contrary to normal practice to publish statistics showing the contribution of individual firms to the exports of the motor industry.

12. Mr. Yates

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the increasing amount of short time and redundancy in the motor car industry, what arrangements he is making to hear in person the views of both sides of the industry upon the present situation.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

None, Sir; both sides of the industry were represented at the meeting of the National Advisory Council for the Motor Manufacturing Industry on 7th March, and I have been informed of the views then expressed about the present situation in the motor industry. I doubt whether the industry would be able to add to the points so recently expressed but, as the hon. Member is aware, I am ready at all times to hear their views.

Mr. Yates

The Minister said last week that he was quite willing to hear both sides of the industry. In view of the very serious perturbation about the situation in the motor car industry, would he not take the initiative and invite both sides of the industry to make a first-hand account to himself personally, as I understand he has not attended this committee?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The views of the committee have just been placed before the Board of Trade. I am quite willing to see the committee at any time, as it well knows.

Mr. Bowles

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that free private enterprise under the present Government is creating not only redundancy but unemployment? Is that the policy of the Government? Unless the right hon. Gentleman takes steps, as he can, to remedy the situation, he may find himself redundant very soon.

Mr. Thorneycroft

The hon. Gentleman is raising a much wider point, rather a personal point. I do not stand here in any way to apologise for the measures introduced by Her Majesty's Government, which I think are entirely appropriate to the situation.

Mr. H. Wilson

While the redundancy of the right hon. Gentleman is long overdue, may I ask if he is not aware, in relation to the export position dealt with me the Question, that certain other countries, not only Germany but France and Italy, have increased the value of their exports very considerably? Has he any comment to make on the fact that our own export efforts seem to be badly rewarded in comparison with the efforts of the nationalised motor car industries of France and Germany?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I did not know that it was the policy of the party opposite to nationalise the motor industry, but I take note of that point.

14. Mr. V. Yates

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that Britain now only occupies the fourth place among those nations which export cars to Switzerland; and, in view of the decline in the export of cars to that country, what action he is taking to assist in remedying this position.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I am aware that direct exports of cars from the United Kingdom were marginally lower last year than in 1954. There are no restrictions on the import of cars into Switzerland.

Mr. Yates

Is the President aware that more than 50 per cent. of the motor cars imported by Switzerland came from Germany—a very serious competitor of ours; and may I ask what he is prepared to do either to advise on or to remedy the situation?

Mr. Thorneycroft

There are no restrictions in this market. We have exactly the same chance as have the Germans and the French, and the only way to sell more cars is to produce a better car at a lower price than those of other countries.

Mr. Jay

As the President of the Board of Trade keeps telling us what he is not doing in the matter, does he not really recognise any responsibility to try to encourage British exports, and can he tell us of any single thing that he is doing?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I have said that I reject rationing of steel and the nationalisation of the motor industry, as proposed by hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Bottomley

Will not the right hon. Gentleman take a responsible interest in this matter? Does he not think that he should say what the Government are doing to help this vital industry to recapture the markets that it once held?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It is important for the House to recognise that we have here an open market, with just the same chances of competition as anyone else. There is no easy short cut to getting that motor car trade except by producing a better car at a cheaper price.

Mr. Ian Harvey

is my right hon. Friend aware that his Answers command complete support on this side of the House, and that the motor car industry is quite capable of looking after itself?

Mr. S. Silverman

Is the President aware that the Answers which he has given to my hon. and right hon. Friends' main and supplementary questions are precisely the same answers—almost word for word—as those which he has been giving on behalf of the Government in respect of the Lancashire industry for four or five years? As the Government's policy there has now had the experience of five years of utter failure, will he not reconsider the matter with regard to both the Midlands and Lancashire?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If I have from time to time expressed the view on a number of industries that their principal responsibility is to be competitive in the markets of the world, I am not ashamed of that.

24. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider publishing at suitable intervals of time the statistics showing the export performances of the principal British car firms.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

No, Sir. It would be contrary to normal practice to publish statistics showing the contribution of individual firms to the exports of the motor industry.

Mr. Johnson

Since the Minister has been saying all the afternoon that what this industry needs is more aggressive overseas salesmanship, will he not agree that this is partly a psychological matter and that it would be a good thing to publish this league table not only to educate the public but also to make the firms export even more and do their job in overseas markets?

Mr. Thorneycroft

No, Sir. All Governments need full statistics upon which to form their policies, but if it were known that they intended to use those statistics by publishing the trading results of individual firms, no Government would ever be able to collect them.