HC Deb 16 May 1990 vol 172 cc881-2
12. Mr. Neil Hamilton

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will list the levels of United Kingdom exports of cars to Japan in (a) 1988 and (b) 1989.

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that in 1988 we exported 8,099 cars to Japan, worth £65 million, and in 1989 we exported 15,500 cars worth £126 million, which makes the point that the Opposition do not want to understand—that the position is improving rapidly and the improvement is very welcome.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend agree that the growing strength of the British car industry is entirely due to the tremendous changes that have been brought about in industrial relations in that industry as a result of legislation introduced during the past 12 years, all of which was opposed by Labour Members, and that the jobs of British car workers are protected by the increasing export performance of British car companies to countries such as Japan? Will he confirm that Japan is our ninth best export market?

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend is right on both counts. Of course, the improved industrial relations record is a most important feature. It is a shame that even now the Labour party cannot agree on the importance of those reforms and totally opposes some of them in the political advice given to the Government in the Labour party's latest policy review— the fourth or fifth review, I have lost count of how many there have been.

The House may also like to know how well trade in motor cars with Japan went in the 1970s, when the Opposition had a chance to put into practice the policies that they are still preaching. In the worst year, we exported 891 cars compared with 15,500 last year. In the Labour Government's best year, to give them credit, the figure reached 3,393. Those were the years when the British motor industry was dogged by high taxation, high borrowing and bad labour relations —the same recipe as the Labour party's new policy review.

Mr. Roy Hughes

How do the puny levels of British car exports to Japan compare with the levels of British car exports to the Common Market, and how do our actual exports compare with the radiant forecasts made by Lord Stokes when he was chairman of British Leyland way back in 1972? Can the Minister also tell us something about the import of cars into Britain from the Common Market?

Mr. Redwood

The hon. Gentleman's question is outside the terms of the main question. We import more cars than we export to member states of the European Community, and the total trade in cars is much larger than that with Japan. The figures are in the Library if the hon. Gentleman cares to look them up, or he can table an appropriate question. The point that he is trying to make misses the dynamics of the British motor car industry. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the industry went through a bad time in the 1970s, improved in the 1980s and will have a splendid time in the 1990s —the decade of manufacturing revival under a Conservative Government with most welcome inward investment from several overseas countries.

Mr. Roger King

My hon. Friend will probably know that the mini-car produced by Rover Group has long been a good seller in Japan—it sells in ever greater quantities each and every year —but is he also aware that Nissan in Sunderland will be producing a unique five-door version to succeed the Bluebird which will be exported exclusively to Japan? Japanese transplant factories are thus producing goods for their own home market.

Mr. Redwood

Indeed. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing his expertise to bear on the subject. He is an expert on the motor industry and his support and encouragement for it are most welcome. I am even more pleased to note that he does so much to promote exports to Japan without receiving any commission for it.

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