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Motor Industry

Volume 890: debated on Monday 21 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what information he has as to the effect on overseas investment in the British motor industry if Great Britain withdrew from the EEC.

I am aware that the British motor industry considers Europe to be an important market in any circumstances. The effect of withdrawal on inward invest- ment would depend on the terms of continued access to that market.

Is not the certainty of being able to sell in a large tariff-free market essential for this industry, in view of the enormous and increasing costs that motor manufacturers have to bear before new models go into production? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no similar parallel large tariff-free market?

The hon. Gentleman must also appreciate that the British motor industry includes those who work in the industry, as represented by the trade union movement, which, in many important respects in that industry, takes a contrary view. The hon. Gentleman must not argue that the tariff arrangements that may be reached with any country or group of countries are necessarily in-separable from political links as tight as are involved in membership of the EEC. That is a quite different argument, which does not arise under the Question tabled.

I shall try to help the Minister, if he will let me. Is not the greatest threat to further overseas investment in the British motor car industry the prohibition and nationalisation orders which he is proposing in the Industry Bill? That is the real threat to further overseas investment.

I cannot accept that the difficulties experienced by, for example, the Chrysler company in this country are attributable to policies that the Labour Government have adopted. Neither, indeed, would any objective observer think that the problems of Volkswagen, Citrën and other world-wide companies in the motor industry could all be attributed, as the hon. Gentleman would like to attribute them, to the policies of the Labour Government in London. It is a nice thought, but it has no relation to reality.