HC Deb 27 October 1980 vol 991 cc15-6
13. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the value of cars exported from Eastern bloc countries into the United Kingdom over the past five years.

Mr. Nott

I shall publish full information in the Official Report, but between 1975 and 1979 imports from the Eastern bloc increased by £36 million, compared with an increase from the European Community of £1,573 million. The first half of this year shows a downward trend in imports from the Eastern bloc.

Mr. Alton

Does not the Secretary of State agree that it was hypocritical of us to retaliate against the Russians following the invasion of Afghanistan by trying to prevent our athletes from going to Moscow, while at the same time allowing Russian cars to be imported into Britain? Will he say what he is doing to ensure that the Mini Metro is sold to Eastern bloc countries?

Mr. Nott

It is not for me to ensure that the Mini Metro is sold to Eastern European countries. That is the job of the management of British Leyland. I sincerely hope that we can get British cars into the Eastern bloc. We have a surplus on our trade with the Eastern bloc this year, and I do not wish to see that disappear. As the hon. Gentleman is a Liberal, I am sure that he is in favour of liberal trading policies, in the great tradition of his party.

Mr. Hal Miller

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is not a question of the total value of Soviet imports, but the price at which they enter Britain? It is a political price. The Soviet Union supplies 25 per cent. of all cars sold in Britain for less than £3,000. That is a damaging practice. Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people think that it is not an example of the fair, free and liberal trade to which he referred?

Mr. Nott

I understand the complaint about Eastern European car imports. That complaint has been made especially by Sir Michael Edwardes. However, the share of the market taken by those cars has fallen fairly significantly in recent times. It is an indication that the consumer is more discriminating than some of us sometimes think. I do not think that there is any real competition for British Leyland from those cars. In any event, I hope that that is the case.

Following is the information:

Imports of cars from Eastern bloc countries—£,000–1975 12,312, 1976 14,309, 1977 23,168, 1978 32,258, 1979 47,896, Jan.-June 1980 13,583.

Forward to