HC Deb 21 June 1982 vol 26 cc2-3
2. Mr. Knox

asked the Minister for Trade if he will list the eight countries that took most British exports in the most recent year for which figures are available.

Mr. Peter Rees

In 1980, the latest year for which figures are available, the United Kingdom's top export market was the Federal Republic of Germany, followed by the United States of America, Netherlands, France, Irish Republic, Belgium and Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy.

Mr. Knox

Is it not significant that six of those eight countries are in the EEC? Is there any guarantee that we would still be able to sell as much to those countries if we were not in the Community?

Mr. Rees

It is implicit in my hon. Friend's question that the EC is our fastest growing and most important market. There is certainly no guarantee that it would remain our fastest growing market or that we should have such successful access to it if we were outside the Community.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Like most Ministers, in his initial reply the hon. and learned Gentleman said that the latest year for which figures were available was 1980. We now have computers, calculators and electronic this and that. In 1982, why cannot Ministers give more up-to-date figures, like they used to do in 1945?

Mr. Rees

I can give an answer, although it gives me no pleasure to do so. Industrial action prevented the statistics from being brought up to date. It was thought more appropriate to catch up with later, rather than earlier, figures. I take the hon. Gentleman's point and hope that we shall have the complete figures for 1981 as soon as possible. However, I cannot guarantee when that will be.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Is not the significant aspect of my hon. and learned Friend's answer that most of our trade now goes to the Common Market, whereas in 1974 it did not? There has been a major switch by our manufacturers to the Common Market and away from the rest of the world. Having made that switch, if we were to withdraw from the Common Market our manufacturers would lose heavily and there would be a severe loss of jobs.

Mr. Rees

It is true that there has been a shift of emphasis in trade with the United Kingdom. I should not like to give the House the impression that the other countries of the European Community are our largest markets, but they represent one of our most important markets and the fastest growing one. For that reason, we must be sensitive to suggestions that sometimes emanate from certain quarters of the House that we should withdraw from the European Community.