HC Deb 09 July 1973 vol 859 cc1017-8
22. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he has any plans to limit imports of Japanese-made colour television sets into the United Kingdom.

Mr. Peter Walker

The Japanese authorities are well aware that I have been watching the position closely and that I hope the exchanges between the two industries that are now taking place will prevent the deterioration in the situation which would oblige me to take action.

Mr. Lamont

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although the Japanese television industry is extremely efficient, there is the suspicion that it is benefiting from subsidised credit and subsidised promotional costs? Is he further aware that the stocks of colour television sets in this country are very high, that the number could reach 600,000 by the end of the year and that this is a threat to the viability of the industry in this country? Other countries have taken steps to restrict imports. Should we not do so before our industry is endangered?

Mr. Walker

I am aware of the potential dangers, and that is why talks are taking place. Under the international agreements to which we subscribe, restrictions can be imposed if imports cause or threaten injury to the domestic industry. We are watching the situation very closely.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is a question not only of Japanese-made imports but of Japanese-designed sets made by Japanese subsidiaries in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom? This matter is causing grave concern to those of us representing constituencies which have greatly profited from the recent boom in colour television set manufacture.

Mr. Walker

We are in close contact with the industry. Talks are taking place between the Japanese industry and our own.

Mr. Mason

The talks should come to a quick conclusion, because it is not just a question of colour television sets. According to the May figures, we exported £25.7 million worth of goods to Japan but Japan exported to us £39.2 million worth in one month—a 50 per cent. balance of payments surplus—and that figure was 97 per cent. higher than the figure for May of last year. What are the Government doing to rectify this big trade imbalance?

Mr. Walker

The volume of our exports to Japan is rising very fast due to Japan relaxing a lot of restrictions. In replying to a Question when the right hon. Gentleman was not present, I pointed out that exports to Japan have increased by 55 per cent. for the first five months of this year. There is an important two-way balance of trade. We have a very considerable surplus with the Japanese on invisible exports. However, we made it clear to the Japanese Government that we shall not have an industry like the television set industry ruined by imports.

Forward to