HC Deb 04 February 1958 vol 581 cc965-6
27. Mr. Chapman

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what tentative estimate he makes of the present fall in the dollar earnings of the sterling area as a result of the decline in commodity prices; and what special consultations he is proposing with the overseas sterling area about its resulting call on sterling reserves.

Mr. Amory

I regret that data are not yet available in a form which allows any simple numerical estimate to be made. But there is no doubt that recent falls in raw material prices have been an important factor in reducing the level of the export earnings of the rest of the sterling area in recent months. The whole question of the sterling area balance of payments will, of course, be discussed at the proposed Commonwealth Economic Conference and at the preliminary meetings of officials that are to be held, and it is also under continuous review through normal channels.

Mr. Chapman

Is it not a fact that in previous crises in the sterling area one of our troubles has been that we have reacted far too late to changes of this kind and when, three months later, figures have become available we have been in a panic and have had to introduce panic measures? Can the Minister give us an assurance that he will make the earliest possible estimate of what is now going on as a result of the fall in commodity prices, and that he will then—earlier than in previous crises—begin to take some action?

Mr. Amory

I realise the importance of the point the hon. Member has raised, and I will give him the assurance that it will be very much in my mind all the time; but it is very important to get the most up-to-date figures available as to trends, and to make what I might call a continuous appreciation of what is happening.

Mr. Jay

We know that prices have been falling. Can the Minister at least say whether the volume of sales with the dollar area has been falling or rising?

Mr. Amory

I should like notice of that question.