HC Deb 10 November 1969 vol 791 cc8-10
10. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will now make a further statement on the motor industry and on measures to stimulate home sales as an ingredient in increased and increasing export performance.

Mr. Benn

Total production of motor cars in the first nine months of 1969 was 1,291,378. This was 4 per cent. lower than in the corresponding period of 1968, a 10½ per cent. fall in home market production being partly offset by a 4 per cent, rise in export production. Although home sales were depressed in the early part of this year, there have been signs of some improvement in demand in recent months. Current trends are kept constantly under review.

Sir G. Nabarro

I recognise that the export performance of this industry has been splendid in the last year or two, but is it not a fact that it will be nearly impossible to go on expanding exports of motor vehicles generally without an accompanying increase in export prices unless the home market is allowed to expand naturally and is not severely curtailed as it has been in the last year or two?

Mr. Benn

The relationship between home market and profitability and, hence, the export success of the industry, is a point which has been regularly put to me by the industry, whose representatives I see regularly, and is the subject of discussion between the Government and the industry, notably in the motor industry E.D.C. These considerations are much in the Government's mind.

Mr. Howie

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the sale of Bedford trucks has managed to combine record levels of exports and of home market sales? Would he not agree that, were the motor car producing side of the industry able to pursue its objectives with the same vigour as the commercial vehicle side, many of our economic problems would be solved?

Mr. Benn

It is true that, to the extent that the export success of the motor industry leads to an improved balance of payments, in the long run the need for restriction in the home market would diminish. This is part of the whole nature of the problem. But I congratulate the industry on the success to which my hon. Friend drew attention.

Mr. David Price

I assume from the figure the right hon. Gentleman has given us that this year's total output will be near or below that of 1964. In the circumstances, does the right hon. Gentleman expect the industry to achieve the target of the National Plan, which was an increase of 36 per cent. between 1964 and 1970?

Mr. Benn

I will make available to the hon. Gentleman the forecast figures for this year. I do not have them with me. The motor industry E.D.C. report is the next stage of the planning exercise, and a great deal of work has taken place between the Government and the industry in order to meet the considerations he has in mind.