HC Deb 19 January 1981 vol 997 c4
4. Mr. Peter Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the balance of trade in chemicals for that part of 1980 for which he has figures as compared with the same period in previous years.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Cecil Parkinson)

In 1980 the United Kingdom had a crude surplus on trade in chemicals of £2,139 million, compared with surpluses of around £1,500 million in each of the two previous years.

Mr. Lloyd

Does my hon. Friend agree that those are excellent results, for which the industry deserves high praise? However, does he also agree that such success is vulnerable to retaliation against any protective measures that we may take to assist parts of our home market that are facing competition from imports? Does he further agree that the success is vulnerable to competition from countries such as the United States, where fuel and other input costs are kept artificially low?

Mr. Parkinson

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's question is "Yes". The figures demonstrate that Britain, being extremely dependent on trade and access to other markets, has much to lose from the extension of widespread protectionism. I agree also with my hon. Friend's second point.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is the Minister aware that Graesser Salicylutes Limited, in my constituency suffered dozens of redundancies in 1980, largely due to the strength of the pound and the need for energy subsidies, as well as high interest rates? Is he further aware that that company has also been hit hard through the importation from the Chinese Republic of Paracetamol, which has given it financial headaches?

Mr. Parkinson

Individual British companies have been having a difficult time. However, our chemical industry has been much more successful in maintaining a larger share of other people's markets than they have been in maintaining the same share of ours.

Mr. Hardy

Energy price advantages in America have been mentioned. Does the Minister accept that the British chemical industry would pay £250 million less for its energy if the same prices applied as those in Germany and France?

Mr. Parkinson

As the hon. Gentleman knows, a working party has been set up to establish the indisputable facts about the matter. There are as many opinions as there are people. We wish to get the right answer.