HC Deb 21 November 1961 vol 649 cc1126-8
22. Mr. Millan

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what applications he has received from two British property companies for capital exports sanction to enable them to build a 20 million dollar office building in Boston, Massachusetts; and what action he is taking to protect the United Kingdom balance of payments position in this and similar transactions.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The transfer of a small proportion of this sum was authorised in April and May last. The bulk of the money was to be raised abroad. As to the general question, I am carrying out the policy which I stated to the House on 25th July.

Mr. Millan

Will not the Chancellor be a little more forthcoming than that? Is he aware that the chairman of one of the property companies concerned has said that if it is not possible to raise money in the United States it will be raised here? Cannot the Chancellor give a categoric assurance that this sort of speculative transaction will not be allowed if it involves a drain on our balance of payments? What is the good of appealing to our exporters to increase their efforts if this sort of thing is allowed to continue?

Mr. Lloyd

Within the limits of the general policy I laid down, each case is looked at on its merits from the point of view of what advantage it has for this country's balance of payments and visible or invisible earnings. I have nothing to add to my original answer.

Mr. H. Wilson

Has the Chancellor seen figures published recently by the United States Department of Commerce showing that the return, in terms of current earnings, on capital invested by this country in America is far less than the return on American capital invested in this country up to a comparable amount? In view of this and the clear detriment to our current capital balance of payments, will the Chancellor look at these cases very carefully indeed?

Mr. Lloyd

Certainly I will. But I do not think it would be wise to exclude us from what might be very profitable undertakings.

Mr. J. T. Price

Can the Chancellor say whether the overseas trading corporation legislation will apply to transactions of this kind? May I remind him that that legislation, which was enacted by his House some years ago, did not require the revenue from investments not registered in London to be returned to this country. If, in fact, profits made by this kind of investment are not returnable to this country, what contribution is this kind of transaction making to the economy of Great Britain?

Mr. Lloyd

That is a rather different issue. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to put down a Question, I will try to answer it. Regarding approval of individual cases, what the hon. Gentleman said in the latter part of his supplementary question is relevant.

Sir C. Osborne

Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that sufficient income is brought back to this country from capital invested abroad? Is he satisfied that the recent steps he has taken are proving satisfactory?

Mr. Lloyd

Regarding the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I am not satisfied. Regarding the second part, I am doing what I can to see that the position is improved.