HC Deb 04 May 1915 vol 71 cc1012-4

What does that mean? Our imports have increased enormously, and our exports have gone down very, very considerably. That is inevitable, and that is how it affects us. How does it affect Germany? In Germany, practically both her imports and her exports have been cut off by the Navy—substantially—and there is no doubt at all that its grip is tightening and tightening every day. Although they are boasting that they have got certain exports, and still got certain imports, I have not the faintest doubt that both of them are gradually getting less. What does that mean? We have both to maintain ourselves and feed our population and our manufactures, but that has to be done either out of the produce of our own country or out of accumulated reserves of materials or by means of imports from abroad. Germany cannot import from abroad. She has to depend entirely upon what she can produce at home or on accumulated reserves of material—copper, iron, and everything.

Let the Committee observe the difference, between the two problems. From the point of view of a War Minister Britain is better off. From the point of view of a Finance Minister our difficulties are greater for the time being. In a protracted war the British War Minister has great and increasing advantages over his German rival; but the German Finance Minister has not the same difficulty in financing purchases from abroad." [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because there are no purchases from abroad. Do not let us underestimate the difficulties. I am now putting the financial proposition which is in front of us. Let us see what it is. I will give the actual figures. The margin of imports over exports in an ordinary year is £130,000,000. The margin of imports over exports this year—I am only looking at what has happened during the last two or three months—may be £448,000,000. That does not include the Government purchases abroad or the purchases of the Allies abroad. We have to finance the whole.

We have to finance the difference between our imports and our exports. We have to finance the. Government purchases, which are not included in our ordinary trade imports. We have practically to finance the purchases of most of our Allies from abroad. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] We are all acting together. Each has to put its best in. This is the way we can help, and, if we can help, we are bound to do it. Let us see what the problem means. It means that instead of haying to finance the difference of £130,000,000, we have to finance the difference of between £700,000,000 and £800,000,000. That is practically what we have to do. How are we to do that? That is the problem. The interest on investments is the same. The freightage will be the same; because, although the number of ships engaged in the transport of goods has been considerably diminished, owing to the fact that the Admiralty have absorbed transport, still freights have gone up, and I think the Committee may take it that the £350,000,000 still represents the sum which that interest and services represents. We have still between £350,000,000 and £400,000,000, that this country will have to find in order to finance purchases from abroad. These are the two problems with which we are confronted. I should like to say that this, shows, first of all, the importance of our taking no avoidable steps which will have the effect of diminishing the value of our exports abroad.