HC Deb 15 December 1953 vol 522 cc177-8
9. Mr. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of our present industrial production he aims at as a target for export; and by how much he estimates our standard of life would be reduced if this objective were achieved.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have no target of this kind for export. The objective for the balance of payments is a substantial United Kingdom surplus on current account over a number of years. This surplus can be achieved without reduction to our standard of life if output, productivity, and our competitive power in foreign markets continue to increase.

Mr. Osborne

It is just that amount of increase that I am seeking to get from the Chancellor. Does he remember that last week he told the House that 28 per cent. of our industrial production was being sent abroad and that it is not enough? I want to know by how much our national productivity has to increase.

Mr. Butler

It is difficult to give an accurate figure. The only thing I would say in reply to the hon. Member is that I adhere to what I said before, namely, that the increase should be of the order of more than 28 per cent. if we are to be successful.

Mr. Gaitskell

But does the Chancellor stand by his figure of £300 million as the target for the United Kingdom surplus, a figure which he gave to the O.E.E.C. Council some time ago?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, anything I have once said I stand by.

Mr. H. Wilson

Did that last statement cover the statement the Chancellor is reported to have made at Newcastle during the last Election about his refusal to cut food subsidies?

Mr. Butler

First, the statement was not made at Newcastle, and, second, if hon. Members would be kind enough to read the speech I made in my first Budget explaining the reasons for reducing the food subsidies, they will see that it was in line with the general policy of the Conservative Party as outlined in the statements made at the last Election.