HC Deb 15 June 1961 vol 642 cc614-5
9. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the urgent need to increase exports and the failure of exhortation alone to achieve this, if he will consult with the President of the Board of Trade about the immediate reduction of tariffs so as to reduce the greater profitability of the protected home market as against export markets, in order to divert more production into exports, and help the balance of payments problem; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Barber

My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade have both referred in this House to the beneficial effect of increased competition in the home market which might be expected to result from a reduction in tariffs. But, as the President of the Board of Trade said on 30th March, the right way to cut tariffs is by getting reciprocal reductions at the same time so that we can not only increase competition in this country but also increase opportunities for our exports. This is a major objective of the G.A.T.T. tariff negotiations now in progress.

Sir C. Osborne

Is not my hon. Friend aware that the Bank for International Settlements Report this morning shows that British exports in the last seven years have increased by only 28 per cent. as against 156 per cent. by Germany and 180 per cent. by Italy? Since exhortation has not caused our manufacturers to go into the export market, why does not the Chancellor make it more profitable to sell in the export market and less profitable to sell in the home market, thus driving the manufacturers to concentrate on exports? Will he do something on these lines?

Mr. Barber

It is certainly the hope of Her Majesty's Government that as a result of the current G.A.T.T. negotiations there will be really big and effective reductions in industrial tariffs on a reciprocal basis between ourselves and the other major trading nations concerned.

Mr. Holt

If that is the object of Her Majesty's Government, why have they given such a niggardly response to the offer of the Common Market countries to make a cut of 20 per cent. along the whole of the industrial tariffs?

Mr. Barber

All these matters are now being considered in the G.A.T.T. negotiations and certainly it would not be wise from a negotiating point of view to disclose our hand at this time.