HC Deb 25 April 1983 vol 41 cc584-5
3. Mr. Les Huckfield

asked the Minister for Trade if he will make a statement on the overall balance of trade for the motor vehicle industry, including the component sector.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Peter Rees)

The crude trade deficit for the motor industry in 1982 was £1,278 million. This figures includes a crude trade surplus of £506 million on trade in components.

Mr. Huckfield

I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for that information. Is he not concerned about the fact that the deficit on the complete unit side used to be far more than compensated for by a surplus on the component side and the component surplus is now in danger of diminishing? Does he accept that legislation will be necessary in this country, as has already been introduced in other countries, to ensure that we do not degenerate into an assembly-only motor industry—the assembly of other people's imported cars using other countries' components?

Mr. Rees

The statistics show that the export figures for motor vehicles and the value of exports remain constant. There was, however, a short upsurge in imports last year. I do not think that the House would expect me to legislate against decisions of our fellow countrymen. As the hon. Gentleman may possibly be contemplating a return to midland politics, I shall give him a piece of good news. Contrasting the past three months with the previous three months, engineering exports have increased by 8.5 per cent. There is great vitality in that sector.

Mr. Marlow

Would it not help our trade in motor car components if the manufacturers of every type of car advertised for sale in the United Kingdom had to give, among other information, the proportion of the United Kingdom value added content of their cars?

Mr. Rees

I suspect that that would impose an intolerable burden on motor car retailers. I suspect also that it would be difficult to determine precise amounts. I recognise my hon. Friend's concern, but I am not certain that he has offered a practical solution.

Mr. Archer

Does the Minister appreciate that the British public, who are being invited to buy German-made Fords and Vauxhalls, are under the impression that they are buying British? Will he take steps to ensure that the vehicle identification number on foreign-made cars is displayed conspicuously and that purchasers are informed of what it means?

Mr. Rees

It may be patronising, but I always try to educate our compatriots in what they are buying. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that there are European regulations of which account must be taken before the solution that he has suggested can be adopted.