HC Deb 28 July 1953 vol 518 cc1073-4
17. Mr. Shepherd

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is satisfied that the increasing cost of our imports, as shown in the monthly returns, can be met without involving us in an adverse balance of payments at the end of the year.

19. Mr. Grimond

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the declining export figures and the rise in bank deposits, he is satisfied with his provisions against inflation; and what further steps he is taking to strengthen our balance of payments position.

Mr. R. A. Butler

It has been the constant objective of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that our balance of payments position is soundly based. In order to ensure that there will be an adequate surplus on current external account over and above the balance which we expect for some time ahead, it is essential that we should expand our exports. The rising curve of production must continue to contribute to this end. I am, of course, constantly alive to the danger of any return of inflation.

Mr. Shepherd

Does not my right hon. Friend also realise the possible danger of relying upon increased exports which do not materialise? Ought not consideration to be given to other measures?

Mr. Butler

I am aware that there may be difficulty in selling our exports abroad, but I am also aware that there are signs of improvement within the internal economy. The hon. Member should realise that the importance of this question is ever present to my mind.

Mr. Grimond

Does the Chancellor really think that an exhortation to increase exports is enough? Does not he think that some positive steps must be taken by the Government, both to increase exports and to curb home consumption of certain types of goods?

Mr. Butler

I am glad to say that we are continually active in the task of trying to promote exports, but it cannot be done by the Government alone. In so far as the Government can help, various plans are on foot for increased credits, for improving the search for markets, and in other ways. I am aware of the importance which the hon. Member attaches to this matter.

Mr. Jay

If the present tendency for imports to increase faster than exports continues, what further steps do the Government propose to take?

Mr. Butler

I am aware that owing to the increase in production which the right hon. Gentleman and others so much wanted there has been a tendency for imports to increase. It is that particular aspect which we watch at the same time as we watch the others.