HC Deb 20 November 1952 vol 507 cc2013-5
2. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade the reason for the fall in exports for the third quarter of 1952 to £574 million from £689 million in the corresponding period of 1951; and if he will make a statement on the position.

Mr. Mackeson

The two figures mentioned by my hon. Friend are not quite comparable. The first excludes, and the second includes, the value of re-exports. Excluding the latter throughout, the value of United Kingdom exports fell from £656 million to £574 million between the two quarters mentioned. The principal reason for this fall has been the general recession in consumer demand and the severe import restrictions imposed by many sterling area countries last spring following upon unusually large imports by them from the United Kingdom in the latter part of 1951 and the first quarter of 1952.

These sterling area countries had to take drastic action to restore a balance in their external accounts which inevitably meant a sharp reduction in their imports from the United Kingdom. Exports to the non-sterling world as a whole have been fairly well maintained.

Mr. Osborne

Can the Minister hold out any hope that in the near future these restrictions in the sterling area on our exports will cease? Will my hon. Friend follow the example of the late Sir Stafford Cripps and warn the country that unless we have greater exports we shall have widespread unemployment and lower rations?

Mr. Mackeson

It is quite clear that overseas market conditions have become more difficult lately. At the time to which my hon. Friend referred in his Question there was a very high demand from Australia and I am glad to say there is a slight improvement there now.

Mr. Edward Davies

Do not the figures, particularly the export figures for the third quarter, show a great recession of trade with Australasia and the necessity for replanning our trade so that we shall not be in a capricious position but can have more regularity in Commonwealth and Western European trade?

Mr. Mackeson

We want to trade with the sterling area as much as we can. It is unfortunate that prices of raw materials such as wool have made it impossible for our friends to buy from us.

Sir W. Smithers

Is not the real reason for the fall in our exports the continuance by this country of tariffs, controls and restrictions on international trade? Does not my hon. Friend realise that we shall not recover in this country until all these tariffs, controls and regulations are taken off?

Mr. Awbery

Is not this the cause of unemployment in the ports of the country, about which we have heard so much in the last week? Does it not show the trend, not only in the docks, but throughout the whole of the industry of this country?

Mr. Mackeson

No, Sir. There is no longer the easy market which existed after the war. Some of our friends, notably the three Southern Dominions, have not been able to buy from us, but we hope that now the pipeline has been emptied things might improve.

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