§ 11.59 a.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
The Question which was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) upon the Question Paper, and also that which he has just raised regarding the vacation, should make it obvious that Members will be departing to-day for what may be a long vacation with a feeling of extreme nervousness, if not of great apprehension, as to the trade position. In the middle of June, we were indebted to the President of the Board of Trade for a very clear statement of his view of the trade position and he was frank with us, and I make no charge against him of misleading the House. He made a very admirable statement of the exact position, but, from information which has since been supplied to us, the trade position appears to be exceedingly disturbing.
The trade returns for the first six months of this year reveal an adverse trade balance of rather more than £203,000,000, as compared with £191,000,000 for the corresponding six months of last year and the latter figure was an increase of £41,000,000 over the corresponding six months of 1936. I heard the Prime Minister say just now, in. reply to a Supplementary Question, that he would deprecate any statement being made to suggest that we were returning to the kind of slump or trade depression that we experienced in 1932. I would point out that the figure of the adverse trade balance is actually £20,000,000 more than the figure of the corresponding six months of 1931, when the trade balance was used so often against us in that connection. The position is £12,000,000 worse in the first six months of this year than at the same time last year and the adverse balance has grown worse, in spite of——