HC Deb 06 April 1948 vol 449 cc40-1

I turn, therefore, to the future—to the dimensions of our external problems in 1948, and the measures that we must take to keep the drain on our gold and dollar reserves under control. In the Survey are set out our prospective foreign receipts, both for the first six months of 1948 and for the year as a whole. The provisional export targets for 1948, which were given last September, have been exhaustively reviewed and revised in consultation with the industries concerned. In the result, we have slightly reduced the overall target for the end of 1948. We now aim to reach a level of 50 per cent. by volume above 1938 by the end of December next, instead of 60 per cent., which was the target fixed last September. If we build up to 150 per cent. by the end of the year, we estimate that that should give an average throughout the year, of 130 per cent. I do not think that this is an over-optimistic target, in view of the fact that we reached a level of 128 per cent. in January and 121 per cent. in the shorter month of February. But it will certainly require a sustained effort in many industries if we are to reach the overall 150 per cent. level by the end of this year. This is, of course, only an average figure made up of many different percentages, some smaller and some greater for the different industries.

On the side of invisible exports and imports, though we look for some small improvement, we cannot hope for any marked increase of net invisible earnings for some time to come. We estimate that in the first half year we shall receive, mainly from shipping and interest, £161 million against payments of £70 million for Government overseas expenditure and £140 million for other outgoings—giving a net deficit on invisibles of £49 million for the half year and £80 million for the whole year.