HC Deb 20 May 1965 vol 712 cc1657-9
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will make arrangements for more Ministers, in addition to those from the Board of Trade, to go overseas on trade promotion visits.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Such visits will be arranged whenever the circumstances justify them.

Mr. Marten

is the Prime Minister aware that there is a growing feeling that some of the senior Ministers who ought to be going abroad to help the export drive are in fact detained in this country due to voting in this House? In view of the small margin of the Government, would it not be better to give one party or the other a sensible majority so that it can properly govern and get on with the job, if we had a General Election?

The Prime Minister

I always wonder what sort of laboured supplementary we shall get from the hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "It was a very good one."] If he is interested in the export trade, as I thought he was, from his original Question, the position is, of course, that a very large number of senior Ministers have gone abroad and will continue to go abroad on negotiations and on trade promoting visits. When, for example, I was in North America last month, in addition to the other jobs I went to do, I spent a very long time with the importers of British goods there, discussing their problems and British exports to the United States. Wherever this is possible we shall do this.

Sir A. V. Harvey

While recognising the necessity that Ministers have to go abroad on occasions, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he does not agree that the Opposition have been reasonable in facilitating most of those visits, and is it not, therefore, unfortunate that a senior Minister should give a quite different version to the British public? Could he not ask his colleagues to be fairer?

The Prime Minister

I think there was an awful lot of confusion about who returned from abroad and who did not at that particular time. I am not sure if I have a pair myself yet for a very important visit to Vienna on European economic co-operation next Monday. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will help.

Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that even when Ministers are in this country there is an important job of promoting trade to be done, and would the right hon. Gentleman investigate why it is that the President of the Board of Trade, who was in this House yesterday, found that he was unable to keep a long-standing engagement to address the Canadian Chamber of Commerce?

The Prime Minister

Yes, there was a reason, a very good personal reason, which I do not want to advertise, but which I will be happy to discuss with the hon. Gentleman if he wants me to.