HC Deb 25 February 1965 vol 707 cc582-3
5. Mr. Burden

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many deputations he has received, or has agreed to receive, from British industries in regard to the adverse effect the 15 per cent. import surcharge has had on their export potential.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Douglas Jay)

Four deputations were received by my hon. Friends the Ministers of State after the import charge was imposed. At these meetings many aspects of the charge were raised, including its effect on exports. No other meetings have been arranged.

Mr. Burden

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that there is a great deal of antagonism among importers of our goods because the fact that he has now been able to reduce the surcharge by 5 per cent. shows that it wag never necessary to impose it at the rate of 15 per cent., plus the fact that the goods which are now being delivered are in respect of orders placed well before the surcharge was imposed?

Mr. Jay

No, Sir, there is no evidence that the surcharge has affected our exports. The fact is that British exports were falling up to the time when the surcharge was imposed and other measures were taken and since then they have been rising.

Mr. Barber

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the view he has just expressed is not shared by large numbers of British exporters? Will he enlighten the House on two points which are puzzling many people? First, if the surcharge, at a level of 15 per cent., has had any significant effect so far on the level of imports, how can he and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that the two months' advance notice of the cut will not cause an artificial holding off until after 27th April, followed thereafter by a pent-up flood of imports? [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] This is a very important point. Secondly, if the right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that advance notice will have very little effect, why has he deferred the operative date for two months?

Mr. Jay

The view that I expressed is supported by the figures. The other fact that the right hon. Gentleman has not noticed is that since the surcharge was imposed imports of goods subject to the surcharge have actually been reduced. We have, therefore, made enough progress to be able to make this first relaxation.