HC Deb 16 May 1990 vol 172 cc875-7
7. Mr. Dunnachie

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will next meet his counterparts in the European Commission to discuss United Kingdom trade with the European Community.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs (Mr. John Redwood)

My right hon. Friend and I regularly meet European Commissioners and discuss with them a wide range of subjects.

Mr. Dunnachie

Is the Minister aware that imports to the United Kingdom from the EEC totalled some £2.7 billion in the 1970s and that in 1989, the figure had risen to £63.5 billion? In the light of that, will he outline his plans to improve the figure?

Mr. Redwood

The hon. Gentleman should also note that there has been a big increase in our exports to the European Community because we are trading much more widely with our European partners than we were in 1970. The House should recognise that, since 1983, the ratio between our exports and imports in manufactured goods to the European Community has been improving. That is a direct result of the economic policies pursued by the Government, which have led to a massive increase in investment and productivity and an improvement in our manufacturing performance. I dread to think what would happen if we took the advice of Labour Members and adopted some of the policies emerging from the Labour party's latest policy review. On page 131 of his book, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) recommends a major increase in corporate and investment taxation. That would be a good way to reverse the encouraging trend in the ratio between exports and imports in manufatured goods to Europe, which has been taking place since 1983.

Sir Hal Miller

When the Minister meets his counterparts, will he tell them that the motor trade has shown a positive improvement, and raise with them the question of the barriers being erected against cars made by British workers in British plants, using money supplied by British banks, albeit for a Japanese company? Will he do his best to ensure that those artificial barriers to trade are removed, so that we can complete the single market, and compete fairly, and that that takes place long before we move on to further measures of European unity?

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend has done a great deal for the British motor industry and I am sure that he will be pleased to know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has carried the argument strongly into the counsels of our European partners. He has made it clear that cars produced in Britain, by whatever company under whatever ownership pattern, are British cars and therefore European cars and should circulate freely within the Common Market. That remains our position, and we have every confidence that our partners will accept it. My hon. Friend can rest assured that the Government will fight strongly for that right. We are proud of the revival in the British motor car manufacturing industry by new investors and existing investors who are already in this country. The cars are British. Opposition Members love to knock these investments, but they should welcome them and recognise the great contribution that British skills and money are making to the investments.

Mr. Skinner

What about the Italian fireplaces?

Ms. Quin


Mr. Cryer

What about a few more Back Benchers?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have this background noise. It is extremely disruptive and it does not help our debates.

Ms. Quin

From the Minister's earlier reply it would be difficult for many people to realise that we have a huge trade deficit with the EEC. As we do have such a deficit, why are the Government cutting export promotion research?

Mr. Redwood

The Government offer a range of assistance to stimulate exports in the best way that is suitable for exporters. The DTI is happy to offer that advice and assistance through its successful export promotion.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Our exports are improving relative to our imports, and the Government's macro-economic policies are an important part of the policy to bring together the two lines between imports and exports. There is nothing on offer from the Opposition. Their latest policy review is a sham and a pipe dream of the worst sort. There are no policies within it for controlling inflation or excess demand. The Government have put forward the necessary policies, and they will work.