HC Deb 10 November 1960 vol 629 cc1205-7
23. Mr. Driberg

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to assist the British motor industry in developing new export markets.

26. Mr. Edelman

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he is taking to stimulate motor car exports, in view of the drop in sales to the north American markets.

Mr. Maudling

The Department's usual export services are at the disposal of the motor industry in its efforts to expand existing markets or to find new ones.

Mr. Driberg

With respect, it does not sound very positive—merely to say that the services are available. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that everything possible is being done to develop new markets in Asia, in Africa and in other developing countries? If he is not so satisfied, will he take a positive initiative?

Mr. Maudling

I believe that we are doing all we can at the Board of Trade to help this industry in developing its excellent export effort. I am always very glad to hear suggestions and to listen to any advice for improving this effort.

Mr. Edelman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of what is causing anxiety among motor workers in the industry? In Coventry and the Midlands alone, thousands of workers are likely to spend a winter and Christmas of great hardship unless some action is taken now. In these circumstances, will not he consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to reduce Purchase Tax and in that way give emergency aid to the industry between now and the next Budget? Otherwise, the situation will be lamentable?

Mr. Maudling

The hon. Member is painting the picture in rather gloomy colours. There is still a very strong demand for labour in the Midlands. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I received a deputation recently from the industry, after which a statement was made which included the words that … the Chancellor, having regard to all the considerations … did not believe that a change in Purchase Tax should be made. People who give the impression that this might happen are not doing a great service to those who sell cars.

Mr. John Hall

Is it not for the industry rather than for the Government to sell them? In view of the successes in overseas markets of both Italy and Germany, is it not a fact that if the industry produces the right kind of car at the right price, it will sell?

Mr. Maudling

I think that this is a combined job for the industry and the Government. My concern is to ensure that our services provide all they ought to provide to the manufacturers, and their concern is to see that they do their job of selling, which, I agree, is theirs rather than the Government's.

Mr. Jay

As the Government's hire-purchase restrictions are stimulating the depression in the car industry, is it not the right hon. Gentleman's job to do something positive to assist exports?

Mr. Maudling

The Government are certainly doing something positive to assist exports, but it does not follow that a change in hire-purchase restrictions would produce an improvement in exports. The main difficulty in the industry is arising from the sharp setback in the North American market coming at a difficult seasonal time. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made clear, hire-purchase restrictions are part of our general policy designed to safeguard our balance of payments. He will relax them as soon as it is safe to do so.

Mr. F. Harris

Is it not a fact that a good export market can depend only on a good home market, and that unless action is taken to ease the present situation more manufacturers will be handicapped?

Mr. Maudling

A good home market helps with exports, but that argument can be driven a great deal too far. In modern conditions, without a good export trade, there cannot be a good home market.

Mr. Edelman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.