HC Deb 06 December 1989 vol 163 cc311-2
15. Mr. Yeo

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received regarding access for British exports to the Japanese market.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) on 1 November. In the first 10 months of this year our exports to Japan increased in value by 30 per cent.

Mr. Yeo

Does my hon. Friend agree that, given level playing fields in the markets of Japan and elsewhere, plenty of British exports such as Scotch whisky and financial services are world beaters? As we allow free access to our market for the benefit of British consumers, will he do everything that he can to ensure full reciprocation in Japan and other countries?

Mr. Hogg

I agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. My hon. Friend the Prime Minister pressed the Prime Minister of Japan vigorously on this point, and Japanese markets are being substantially liberalised. I have already mentioned the increase in exports in the first 10 months of this year. Last year, I am glad to say, there was an increase of 17 per cent.

My hon. Friend referred to the Scotch whisky market. He will be pleased to know that whisky sales between last August and April of this year increased by 102 per cent.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

The Minister will know that that 102 per cent. increase is greatly appreciated, not least in my constituency, in which there are 43 distilleries. What specific action is he taking to ensure that the advance achieved over the past year will be enhanced by finally breaking down all barriers against Scotch whisky in the Japanese market?

Mr. Hogg

I should like to have said that I had the hon. Lady in mind when I gave the figure but that would not be wholly true. She is right to be concerned. The problem relates to deception by look-alikes. The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister strongly pressed the Japanese Prime Minister on the need to take action to prevent deception by look-alikes in the Japanese market and she was able to obtain considerable reassurances from him on that point.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Does my hon. Friend agree that one way of getting more products into the Japanese market is to make British products more competitive? Under a previous Conservative Government there was a 6 per cent. payroll tax, in the form of employers' national insurance; under the next Labour Government it was 13 per cent., and it is still too high in the United Kingdom, at 10.5 per cent. Will my hon. Friend talk to the Chancellor about reducing it is soon as possible?

Mr. Hogg

As so often, my hon. Friend is right. The Labour party has learnt nothing on this sort of matter. For example, it proposes a payroll tax, echoing the errors that it committed in the past.