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Japan (Motor Vehicles)

Volume 886: debated on Monday 17 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is yet in a position to make a statement about the imbalance in trade in motor vehicles between the United Kingdom and Japan for 1974.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will restrict the import of Japanese cars in Great Britain.

The imbalance narrowed last year mainly as a result of a fall of 11 per cent. in imports and now amounts to £61 million. I look forward to a further reduction in 1975, now that the British industry is better able to meet demand at home and abroad. I have no proposals for import restrictions.

Has the Minister studied recently the prices of Japanese cars in this country, particularly in view of the rate of inflation in Japan? If he has not made such a study, will he accept that it would show that there is cause for fear about dumping? Will he make such a study?

I do not think that it is for the Department to undertake the study. It is for the British industry or the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders to undertake such a study in support of any claim they may wish to make that Japanese motor cars are being dumped here or subsidised. If and when we receive such evidence, we shall obviously give it very serious consideration.

Will my hon. Friend inform the Japanese Government that in the present depressed state of the market we cannot continue with the situation in which for every British car imported into Japan the Japanese export 100 cars to Britain? Will he inform them that if that situation continues he will reconsider his decision and impose quotas on Japanese cars?

If my hon. Friend's comments were based on the feeling that the fault lay entirely with the Japanese, there might be a case to answer, but I can assure him that the major reason why we have not exported many cars to Japan has been the shortage of capacity in this country. In this connection I refer my hon. Friend to a statement by the Deputy Chairman of BLMC on the radio on 2nd February when he said:

"Up to now we have not tried"—
that is, selling cars to Japan—
"because we have not had the vehicles available."

The House will be glad to hear the Minister's comments about dumping. Would it not be wrong to extend any protection to a British industry which is suffering from inflationary wage settlements?

I have every confidence in the British motor car industry as a result of trips that I and my right hon. Friend have made to various markets abroad. There have been no complaints to me while overseas about quality, reliability or price The main complaints have been about delivery and the shortage of capacity in Britain.

Has my hon. Friend any information about reported Japanese intentions to export completely knocked down cars to Britain on a large scale? Will he investigate this matter in order to ensure that this method is not used to conceal dumping?

I have not heard the reports and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to the matter. If those reports were correct I do not think that the company concerned would be acting wisely or realistically, and I would consider any evidence put to me about unfair trading practices such as dumping.