HC Deb 26 November 1953 vol 521 cc501-2
11. Mr. Grimond

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how far the failure of exports to balance imports is due to a failure to sell in foreign markets and how far to excessive home demand.

Mr. Maudling

At present, the U.K. has a small surplus on its overall balance of payments, but it is essential to increase exports further by determined selling efforts. As my right hon. Friend said during the debate on the Address on 6th November, he is carefully watching the level of home demand; if it becomes so high as to be likely to endanger our export trade he will be quite firm in dealing with it.

Mr. Grimond

May I take it that the Chancellor is satisfied with the position, which seems extremely dangerous; and, if he is not satisfied, does he not think that a very great increase in consumption at home, brought about by the last Budget, and, to some extent, by the reduction in the Bank rate, has contributed, at any rate, to a reduction in the earnings of exports?

Mr. Maudling

I think that increased consumption is a very good thing, so long as it does not go to the extent of endangering the export trade, but, as I have said, if there is any sign of that happening my right hon. Friend will take action.

Mr. Jay

Do not the Supplementary Estimates of the Ministry of Food, just published, show that the Budget has got seriously out of hand, inasmuch as it encouraged increased consumption at home at the expense of exports to a greater extent?

Mr. Maudling

If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that consumption, on the whole, is too high, that people have too much money to spend, and that purchasing power should be deliberately reduced by Government action, he is a little out of line with the views of his right hon. and hon. Friends.

Mr. Assheton

Is it not very satisfactory that people have been able to eat rather more food since this Government came into power?