HC Deb 19 February 1957 vol 565 cc192-4
25. Mr. Usborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the tariffs which now protect the British motor industry from the imports of cars from factories in the Common Market countries; and if he will give a table showing the estimated ex-tariff list prices in Britain of six popular European models compared to list prices presently charged.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)

Motor cars manufactured in the Common Market countries are liable on importation to a Customs duty of 30 per cent. ad valorem. I cannot provide the table of prices requested as it would disclose the terms of trading of individual firms.

Mr. Usborne

If the Minister of State cannot give us the actual figures, could he tell us whether in fact the prices so charged would mean that competition would probably considerably reduce the labour force in the car industry in this country over the next five or ten years?

Mr. Walker-Smith

It is dangerous to make any speculative generalisations about these matters. The adjustment of prices consequent upon any removal of duty would, of course, be a matter for the trade.

Mr. Edelman

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that wages in the French motor industry are 25 per cent. lower than British wages and that the motor industry there is more highly automatic, so that, if Britain is to enter into the Common Market, so far as the motor industry is concerned it can only be under conditions of proper planning and suitable division of labour, because otherwise the results will be disastrous?

Mr. Walker-Smith

All these and other relevant considerations are, of course, borne in mind; but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that negotiations for an industrial Free Trade Area would be an overall operation rather than one conducted industry by industry.

Mr. Osborne

In view of the obvious fears felt by the workers of Coventry and Birmingham arising from the proposed Free Trade Area, will my right hon. and learned Friend and his right hon. Friend the President discuss the problem with the trade unions affected before a final decision is arrived at?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Very wide-ranging discussions are going on; but I would remind my hon. Friend and the House that though there may be grounds for apprehension there are also advantages to be seen. We need to look at these things with the eyes of faith as well as of fear.

Mr. S. Silverman

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain to the House what special consideration the Government have given or are giving to the effect any such plan as a Common Market might have on the Lancashire cotton industry? Would he assure the Lancashire cotton industry that, whatever the advantages may be to other people, it will not be expected to pay the cost of them?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I think I should be at risk of incurring your displeasure, Mr. Speaker, if I replied about the cotton industry in response to a Question about the motor car industry.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many people think that the British motor industry is in need of a little active competition from the Continent?