HL Deb 15 June 1995 vol 564 cc1888-90

3.7 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many motor vehicles have been exported from the United Kingdom during the most recent 12-month period for which figures are available.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, during 1993 561,355 motor vehicles were exported from the United Kingdom.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that that Answer will give the country a very good feeling? We have made tremendous progress, possibly because Japan found this country a very good base for its production for western Europe. Is it not true that not only does western Europe now take 55 per cent. of our exports, but that we are even exporting cars to Japan? Is not that a fact?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for drawing attention to what is indeed a great achievement. In 1984, we exported 86,000 cars to Europe; in 1993, we exported 465,000 cars. In 1984, we exported 883 cars to Japan; in 1993, we exported 17,557 cars. It is not without interest that over 1,000 cars are exported from Nissan in Sunderland each year back to Japan.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it would have been a greater achievement if that industry had continued in British ownership?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it may have escaped the noble Lord that almost all large motor manufacturing companies are multinational companies.

Lord Clark of Kempston

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the economic policy which the Government are pursuing is responsible for the huge increase in exports, not only of motor cars, but in every other export field?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my noble friend is entirely correct. That would not have happened had it not been for the policies carried out by Her Majesty's Government, particularly with regard to privatisation and getting out of the web of nationalisation with all its restrictions. Despite the fact that the party opposite has done away with Clause IV, it hangs on to nationalisation as much as it can. My noble friend is entirely correct.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, now that the Minister has got that out of his system, will he complete the picture by telling us how many cars were imported during the year in question?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am surprised that the noble Lord thought that I had got it out of my system. That was merely the beginning. I am more than happy to give the noble Lord version two if he asks the right question. It is only because my noble friend was sensible enough to ask a question for which I was not prepared that I was entirely happy to give the answer I did. The fact is that a number of vehicles are imported. In 1984, 1,020 vehicles were imported from Japan. The figure is now 999,000, which is less. That is a matter which will appeal at least to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, will my noble friend say how many motor sport products are exported?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, 40 per cent. of British motor sport sales are exports. The annual revenue in that respect is £1 billion. Some 50,000 people are employed. It is an extraordinary fact, I think, that in the Indianapolis 500 motor races last year every car but one was built in Britain.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, while I am very happy to hear the good news, will the Minister confirm that much of it relates to the fact that the Prime Minister wants to be at the heart of the European Union? Does that remain the policy?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is an extraordinary question coming from the noble Lord. The answer is yes.

Lord Peston

My Lords, perhaps I may say how pleased I am to hear the Minister revealing the caring side of his nature by looking up the figures for his noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, which are published and freely available. He could have looked them up in the Library. When he was looking them up for his noble friend did he notice in which year car exports from this country were at a maximum? Will he confirm that the figure was over 800,000 in 1969? Does he care to recall which government were in power that year? Would he also like to notice a later figure when exports were at their absolute minimum, which was 1986? Would he like to reflect upon which government were in power in that year?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is not a bad try from the noble Lord. As he has just ribbed my noble friend for asking questions to which he could know the answer, I cannot think why the noble Lord, Lord Peston, asks me questions to which he knows the answers.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the Minister agree that he complimented, quite rightly, the management which helped to create those figures but that the engineers and skilled workmen, with the essential agreements brought about by their trade unions, also deserve a mention?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord always asks the most anodyne of questions. The answer is that I agree with him.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, is the Minister prepared to acknowledge the growing contribution of this country's newly reconstituted motor cycle industry, notably Triumph, which is exporting as many motor cycles now as it can make?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Viscount for making a contribution of considerably greater help than the one made by his noble friend Lord Mackie of Benshie who seems to have vanished now that he has divested himself of his question.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in the last figure he gave I think the decimal point had slipped three times? He is not alone in that. Winston Churchill and Alec Home both had trouble with their damned dots.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I shall have to look at Hansard. I am not aware of a decimal point dropped or moved three places. I am greatly disturbed by what my noble friend says, hut I am not referring to the question he asked.