HC Deb 25 November 1987 vol 123 cc250-1
9. Mr. Curry

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what proportion of the United Kingdom motor car market was taken by British-made cars in the first eight months of the current year; and how this compares with the last three years' performance of the United Kingdom motor industry.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Robert Atkins)

British-made cars took 49 per cent. of the United Kingdom car market in the first eight months of this year, compared with 43,41 and 43 per cent. for the corresponding period of the previous three years.

Mr. Curry

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Rover Group has fully shared in this progress and that he will therefore be reinforced in his determination to privatise that company as soon as practicable?

Mr. Atkins

I am as encouraged as is my hon. Friend by the news that Austin-Rover's total sales at home and abroad in the first half of this year increased by nearly 3 per cent. over the same period in 1986. Together with a 15 per cent. increase in export sales, that is particularly welcome and, clearly, will certainly not harm the prospects of the Austin-Rover Group when it comes to privatisation.

Mr. Hoyle

Conservative Members are fond of quoting statistics about the Labour Government. Does the Minister not know that in 1979 foreign imports accounted for only 38 per cent.? This year they are accounting for 50 per cent. and in September United Kingdom car sales were down by 15 per cent. How can this be a success story?

Mr. Atkins

I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the penetration of foreign vehicles into Britain has declined in recent months. That is a sign of the impressive performance by the British car industry and by the component industry, which is so important to it.

Sir Ian Lloyd

In view of the complex interdependence of the modern motor car industry, which I am sure my hon. Friend understands only too well, do the terms "British made" and "Foreign made" have any real significance, and what does the term "British made" mean today?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend is as informed on these matters as I am—[Interruption.]—and he makes a good point about the country of origin of cars. Certainly we have noticed in recent months and years a reduction in foreign penetration. As I said, we take a continuing interest in making sure that the component sourcing from the United Kingdom is on the increase. We shall continue to do that.

Mr. Cryer

Is it not true that British Leyland has been rescued from its private enterprise fate-worse-than-death by billions of pounds of taxpayers' money, and that the people of Britain would find it extremely offensive if, after having rescued this firm, it is slimmed down yet again and sold off? Is it not the truth that British Leyland is barely holding its market share and that, with only about 18 per cent. of the United Kingdom market, it cannot survive?

Mr. Atkins

Many hon. Members will recognise that there has been a great improvement in the performance of the Rover Group, partly as a result of the vast sums of taxpayers' money that have been put into the company. All hon. Members recognise that that success story should be told worldwide. That does not necessarily mean, however, that all hon. Members would agree with the hon. Gentleman in saying that we should not return the company to the private sector as soon as practicable.