HC Deb 15 December 1975 vol 902 cc940-2
5. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what estimate he has made of the potential growth of British motor vehicle exports to the West Indies.

Mr. Deakins

My Department keeps industry informed of export opportunities in the individual countries reported by our commercial posts in the area.

Mr. Lane

Is the Minister aware of the strong efforts being made by our Japanese competitors? In view of the great good will in the West Indies towards this country, will he assure us that the Government will give all possible support and encouragement to British manufacturers to increase their stake in this market in the years ahead?

Mr. Deakins

I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman and the House that assurance. Recently a Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' mission of component makers was in the area, and we now await with great interest its report on the opportunities in this market. Japanese competition is growing, but the British motor industry has a long association with this area, and we hope that that association will help it to maintain its trade.

12. Mr. Les Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will make a further statement on motor vehicle exports and imports.

Mr. Shore

In the first 11 months of this year, import penetration of the United Kingdom car market was 33.4 per cent. compared with 27.1 per cent. in the corresponding period in 1974. During the period from January to November 1975, exports of passenger motor cars were £451–3 million, compared with imports of £473–6 million. This compared with the corresponding period of 1974, of exports of £355–4 million and imports of £2919 million. The composition of our car imports has changed in recent months, with the Japanese proportion falling and others rising.

Mr. Huckfield

I thank my right hon. Friend for that information. Does it not indicate that in passenger cars there is still a disparity between what we export and import, on the wrong side of the balance of payments? Does my right hon. Friend agree that as most of the importers have built up substantial stocks of vehicles in this country in possible anticipation of import controls, and as British Leyland appears to have seriously underestimated its sales potential, this only serves to underline the Government's case for saving Chrysler?

Mr. Shore

The House will not expect me to anticipate anything that may be said later about Chrysler. Clearly, the question of the capacity of the British motor car industry and the question of increasing our own output sufficiently to meet demand is of the utmost importance, and particularly so at the present time. As my hon. Friend notes, this year we have a deficit of about £22 million in our exchange in trade in passenger motor cars, and this represents a considerable and adverse change from what it was last year. This again emphasises the need for continued effort by the British motor car industry, in some cases, clearly, with the help of the Government, to get our motor car industry back firmly on its feet. With regard to other vehicles and components, and so on, we still have a favourable and, indeed, increasing trade balance.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

When the right hon. Gentleman considers the pressure for import controls will he bear in mind that the Fourteenth Report of the Expenditure Committee shows clearly that Ryder assumed BLMC sales to EEC countries increasing by 95 per cent. by 1985, and that if he takes any action that causes a counteraction that aborts that 95 per cent. increase in sales, widespread unemployment will be caused within BLMC and much of the public investment in it will fail to achieve the objects for which it was put in?

Mr. Shore

I am certainly not in any way going to write down the possibilities of a considerable increase in BLMC exports to Europe, but the hon. Gentleman knows that if one considers BLMC products as a whole one finds that it is in markets other than Western Europe that the company has achieved, and in my view will continue to achieve, greater success.

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