HC Deb 28 February 1972 vol 832 cc3-4
2. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the proportion of United Kingdom vehicle production exported, the level of tariff protection given to the United Kingdom motor car industry, and the proportion of the United Kingdom domestic motor car market supplied by imported vehicles, in the latest year for which statistics are available; and what information he has from international sources concerning the corresponding figures for the Federal German Republic.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Grant)

In 1970, the latest year for which we have corresponding figures, cars exported from the United Kingdom and the Federal German Republic represented 42 per cent. and 55 per cent. of production; the import penetrations were 14 per cent. and 22 per cent. respectively. From 1st January, 1972, the tariff in both countries has been 11 per cent.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for confirming that the German motor car industry enjoys both a higher level of exports than the British motor car industry and also greater penetration of its markets by foreign cars. Is there not a moral for us in this country, in particular at a time when trade union leaders in the industry seem to be behaving as if international competition was not a factor to be considered? Will my hon. Friend look again at the proposals, which were announced last year by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for unilateral tariff cuts in advance of our entry into the Common Market?

Mr. Grant

I agree with my hon. Friend that the motor car industry has to be internationally competitive; indeed, we are all in agreement about that. It is possible that unilateral tariffs cuts might be desirable in some circumstances. However, I do not think this would be appropriate at the present time.

Mr. Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman caution his hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) that, having failed in his attempts to incite the miners in their dispute, he should not now attempt to incite the car workers at Bathgate when the position there is delicately poised and when interference of this kind is undesirable and could lead to aggravation of the situation?

Mr. Grant

I do not think it is for me to say anything of the sort to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Benn

Would the hon. Gentleman clearly confirm that the Government have no intention of making unilateral tariff cuts on imported motor cars along the lines announced by the Secretary of State last year?

Mr. Grant

The right hon. Gentleman has not been paying attention to what I said, and for his benefit I will repeat it. I said that unilateral tariff cuts might be desirable in some circumstances but I do not think this would be appropriate at present.