HC Deb 05 June 1991 vol 192 cc259-60
1. Mr. Charles Wardle

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the level of exports of the British car industry in 1990 and 1989.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Lilley)

Last year 414,000 cars were exported from the United Kingdom compared with 339,000 cars in the previous year. That represents an increase of 22 per cent.

Mr. Wardle

Does not the recent export success of the automotive industry point the way for other manufacturers to follow, by switching more capacity from home to export markets? Is not it likely that by the mid-1990s car assembly in the United Kingdom will be well over 2 million vehicles? Would not the greatest threat to that success story be a recurrence of inflation or, worse still, a reversion to Labour's interventionist policies?

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend is right on all counts. In the first four months of this year exports of cars were 101 per cent. up on those of the previous year. That is certainly an example to other industries. With regard to future developments, it is marvellous news that the decline in the car industry that went on for so long under the Labour Government has now been reversed, and we expect to be net exporters by the end of the year.

Mr. Hoyle

What representations has the Secretary of State, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer had from the motor industry about the state of the home market? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that sales are down and the car industry is facing real difficulties as a result? That is all because of the Government's economic policy, especially on interest charges and the rest. When will the right hon. Gentleman press his colleagues to help the motor industry to establish itself at home as well as overseas?

Mr. Lilley

The Chancellor of the Exchequer and I met the leaders of the car industry, and naturally, they were concerned about the decline in domestic demand for cars, but I could congratulate them on their good achievement in diverting production into exports, so that production in this country has been running at record levels.

Mr. Madel

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he is satisfied that all European Community countries are playing by the same rules on what is allowed to attract overseas investment into the EC motor industry? Is he satisfied that the German Government are playing by the same rules in attracting investment in what was East Germany? Will he ask Sir Leon Brittan, as the competition Commissioner, to consider the matter?

Mr. Lilley

We keep that matter under constant review, especially with regard to the East German issue, which I shall take up, as my hon. Friend asks. It is important for us that British manufactured cars of Japanese marques are given free access throughout the Community. We are absolutely adamant that they shall have free circulation throughout the Community—[Interruption.]—despite the apparent resistance of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks).