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Motor Vehicle Exports (Japan)

Volume 889: debated on Monday 24 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade how many British motor cars it is expected will be sold in Japan in the coming year.

British manufacturers sold 1,805 motor cars to Japan in 1974. It is not possible to give a precise forecast of sales in 1975.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that 86,899 Japanese cars were imported into this country last year and that the discrepancy between the figures is a scandal? Is he aware that those of our electors who work at Rists and Michelin's in North Staffordshire and car workers generally are looking to the British Government to take action to stop the import of Japanese cars on this scale until the Japanese import ours?

I am aware of the very great disproportion in trade in motor cars between this country's exports to Japan and our imports from Japan. It is a remarkable contrast in numbers. I should be justified in taking action against Japanese cars only if it could be properly and seriously presented to me that the Japanese were engaging in dumping and that this was a significant cause of the present distress in the British motor car industry.

I remind my hon. Friend that, although these numbers are worrying, they account in themselves for only about one-fifth of our total car imports at present. Therefore, it would not be justifiable to select one source of supply and attempt to check imports from that source without looking at the whole situation.

Is the Secretary of State aware that those of us who are trying to help with the exports of our motor cars to Japan are greatly handicapped by strikes, which cause bad delivery performance, and by failure to observe the social contract, which increases costs? Will he assure the House that we shall not retaliate because of those factors and impose import controls which are bound to work against this country?

I have already made clear my attitude towards import controls in relation to motor cars. It is a question of whether they are being dumped and causing material injury to the United Kingdom home industry. No such representations have been put to me.

In looking at the performance of our motor car industry in its selling to Japan, it would be wrong to attribute blame to strikes in the United Kingdom. It is an astonishing fact that as long ago as 1965 we were selling about twice the number of cars to Japan as we sold last year. The truth is that for one reason or another British motor car firms have until very recently not made any serious attempt to enter the Japanese market. I believe that they are beginning to make such an attempt. I believe that they will have some success.