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Motor Vehicles (Manufacture)

Volume 977: debated on Monday 28 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what has been the total number of motor vehicles, including passenger vehicles, manufactured in the United Kingdom in 1979; how this compares with each of the previous 10 years; and what are the latest forecasts for the next decade.

An estimated 1·48 million vehicles were produced in the United Kingdom. This figure is lower than that in any of the previous 10 years. Forecasts of future production are not available.

I shall publish in the Official Report a table of the comparative figures for a 10-year period.

How much have the fall in car production and the rise in imports adversely affected the balance of payments, adversely affected the steel industry and caused a loss of trade in the steel and car component manufacturing industries?

My hon. Friend is correctto draw attention to the consequences for other industries of the decline of the British car industry. However, without further notice, I am unable to give him, the statistical figures for which he asks.

Do not the figures that the Minister has given, and the question by his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) indicate that something needs to be done to control the flood of cars coming into this country, which is affecting both the vehicle manufacturers and the steel industry? Do not we need quota controls for cars coming into this country from both inside and outside the EEC? Is not that the only way in which we can produce sufficient investment to raise our productivity and meet competition from abroad?

The most effective way to control imports, which is what the hon. Gentleman is asking for, is for British producers to produce more cars of the right quality and at a price the consumer is prepared to pay.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the MG car accounts for over 50 per cent. of British Leyland's current exports to the United States? Will he look into the legal obligations of BL to maintain a supply of this distinctive sports car? Would my hon. Friend be happy to see taxpayers' money used to pay for any legal expenses that may be incurred if events take their course?

My hon. Friend asks me whether I will look into the matter, and I shall certainly do so.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of our problems is that over the years workers at British Leyland have consistently been knocked both by the press and by Conservative Members, totally unjustifiably. Does he agree also that it might be a good idea for Conservative Members to buy British Leyland cars? On one issue, and one issue alone I find myself in agreement with Sir Michael Edwardes. I have had a British Leyland car ever since I began to drive cars, and I have found them—

Unfortunately, the knocking of the British car industry is done by the customer. The British customer is the king and we should not fail to recognise that fact. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman read the story in today's newspapers about the ex-British Leyland worker who is in some what troubled circumstances and will have to sell his Datsun car.

The following is the information:

Vehicle production figures over the last decade are as follows, together with car import penetration figures:


Total vehicle production

Of which: cars

Import penetration (cars)



Per cent.