HC Deb 23 July 1964 vol 699 cc669-70
14. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development if he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the British international trading position, including such matters as why Great Britain is not obtaining a greater share of the world market, how to increase the volume of British exports, the effects of trading associations on the imports and cost of raw materials and other related matters, with instructions to report as soon as possible.

Mr. Heath

No, Sir.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Does that reply mean that we have to accept a complacent attitude towards the serious export problems that face us? Does the Secretary of State agree with me that we have some of the most efficient, hard-working and fast-working people engaged in the export industries of any in the world, and is there not something fundamentally wrong when we continue to lose such a percentage of the world's export trade?

Mr. Heath

There is no complacency in the Government about exports, and the announcement I made recently about the new structure of the Export Council bears witness to that. What it means is that we do not consider that the appointment of a Royal Commission is the best way to improve our export position and encourage the greater initiative and enterprise we still want in industry. The hon. Gentleman may recall that the last Royal Commission to examine this subject was appointed in 1924 and reported in 1929, having in the meantime produced six volumes of evidence and failed to reach conclusions. We therefore feel that it is better to use the machinery that exists rather than to set up a Royal Commission.

Sir C. Osborne

Would not my right hon. Friend agree, first, that there is no way of increasing British exports except by either increasing the quality of our goods or reducing the prices? Secondly, could he look into the danger of exports being sold in foreign markets at lower prices than in the home market and thereby selling at a loss to the nation?

Mr. Heath

I do not agree that the two things my hon. Friend mentions are the only things that can be done with exports. A great deal can be done through salesmanship, and a great deal can be done by consulting and meeting the particular needs of the markets, and I hope that British industry will continue to concentrate on these things.