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House of Lords

Thursday, 15th June 1995.

The House met at three of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich.): The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Cuba: US Trade Policy

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy towards the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Bill currently being considered by the United States Congress.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, we have lobbied hard both unilaterally and with our European Union partners and others against the proposed legislation. Recent amendments to the Helms Bill appear to go some way to meet our concerns about the extraterritorial aspects. We shall continue to lobby to ensure that all our concerns are met.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that extremely helpful Answer, but is she aware that many organisations and people in this country who have long been concerned about Latin America consider that the United States policy towards Cuba has been flawed for a very long time and that this piece of legislation is a classic example of that? Furthermore, is it not to their great credit that Her Majesty's Government are maintaining excellent relations with Cuba and that our current trade with that country is developing extremely satisfactorily?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I certainly agree with my noble friend's view. The original Helms Bill contained elements which were objectionable in view of UK trading interests. We shall study the new version carefully and if that new version seeks to extend the US embargo to others, we shall take appropriate action. We have always believed that constructive engagement with Cuba is the best way to encourage reform. I am delighted that there was a growth of 90 per cent. in our trade with Cuba between 1993 and 1994, although it was from a very low base. I am glad to say that not only did my noble friend Lady Young lead a 37-strong delegation to Cuba this February, but that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry will visit that country with businessmen this September.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, will the Minister undertake to take our concerns directly to President Clinton, who holds a possible veto in this matter? However, in the event of that draconian and non-productive Bill becoming law, will Her Majesty's Government advise UK individuals and companies to ignore the effect, as with the Torricelli Bill?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I cannot promise the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, that I shall see President Clinton. I do not know whether he would see

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me. However, I can promise the noble Viscount one thing: should those Bills be passed, we would consider making a further order under the Protection of Trading Interests Act 1980. That would counteract any extraterritorial provisions in such legislation. We shall take action if those Bills go through without being amended sufficiently.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in the rather colourful jacket that she is wearing today, President Clinton would most certainly be able to see her? Is the Minister further aware that everything that she has said today carries the full support of the Opposition? Does she agree in particular that it is already deeply offensive that too many aspects of extraterritorial jurisdiction have been applied by successive American Administrations, without having them added to by this further proposal which seems to run completely counter to the rules of the World Trade Organisation? Does the Minister agree?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I do not know whether it is the fact that I am wearing a red jacket that is leading to me getting such approval from the Opposition Front Bench. All that I can say is that I am glad that we are at one on this sensible view that we have taken. Our bilateral aid memoire to the United States Administration showed that there would be a prima facie breach of the US GATT obligations if that Bill were to become law. We continue to lobby with other European Union states, Japan, Canada, Mexico and other US trading partners. The French presidency of the European Union has written, as has the European Commissioner. We shall continue that lobbying because we believe that it is only sensible so to do.

Lord Mayhew: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Government's attitude deserves widespread support? May we hope that in the future American policy not only on Cuba, but on Ireland and in Palestine, will pay greater regard to the views of her allies and less to her ethnic minorities?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Lord. I hope also that the battle that we fought, and won, with regard to American policy towards Vietnam will in future lead America to take more notice of the views of her allies because, with regard to Vietnam, and a number of other places in addition to those mentioned by the noble Lord, I believe that a little help from her allies might help the United States to have a more consistent policy.

Motor Vehicle Exports

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.

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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.

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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?

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