HC Deb 27 January 2000 vol 343 cc575-6
14. Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull)

If he will make a statement on the pricing of cars in the UK and the rest of the EU. [105762]

The Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

The European Commission publishes a six-monthly comparison of pre-tax prices across the European Community. The most recent one covered prices at 1 May 1999; the UK was the most expensive market for 62 of the 75 models covered. Publication of the survey of prices taken on 1 November 1999 is expected shortly.

The Competition Commission is currently investigating the supply of new cars in the UK; its report is due on 31 January. I have no doubt that the commission is looking at car prices as part of its investigation.

Mr. Taylor

Has the Minister stopped to think of the enhanced foreign car penetration of the west midlands car market that will be brought about by the damage to local component manufacturers through the collapse of TransTec?

Mrs. Liddell

My hon. Friend the Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce has already referred to matters connected to TransTec. However, I am sure that many people in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and throughout other areas that are dependent on the car industry will be interested to know how the Government are taking action to ensure that there will be a viable car industry in the future—hence our involvement with Rover BMW. We are trying to ensure that consumers have access to cars at prices that do not disadvantage them. At the same time, we are also ensuring that all the benefits from the single market in the EU are available to every UK consumer.

Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

My right hon. Friend may forgive me if I return to the question asked by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor). Does she agree that while genuine concern about differential pricing across Europe continues, when the commission's report—which we await with interest—becomes available, it is important that it be considered quickly and that decisions be made promptly? The worst thing for consumers and the motor industry would be inordinate delay.

Mrs. Liddell

My hon. Friend makes a considered point on a subject of considerable interest—compared with the shallow attempt by the hon. Member for Solihull to use his question to suit the Tory Whips. We take speed of response very much into account and recognise the importance of the car industry in terms not just of primary manufacture but of components.