HC Deb 21 December 1967 vol 756 cc1461-3
22. Mr. Bishop

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what consultations he has had with representatives of the Confederation of British Industry to discuss ways in which its members may extract the maximum advantage from devaluation in the national interest; and if he will make a statement.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Edmund Dell):

My right hon. Friend has had consultations with the Confederation of British Industry about the action which industry needs to take in order to make full use of the opportunities created by devaluation. This has also been considered in the National Economic Development Council and with the British National Export Council and the Departments concerned are having discussions with representatives of individual industries.

Mr. Bishop

Would my hon. Friend agree that if the lowering of prices following devaluation is to continue for exports, this requires positive action on his part if the advantages of devaluation are not to be lost?

Mr. Dell

Of course, the opportunity to lower export prices is an important opportunity created by devaluation. But I am sure that my hon. Friend will realise that this must be a matter of commercial judgment in individual cases; and will depend in individual cases on different considerations, such as availability of capacity and price elasticity of the market. Whether it is better to spend more on after-sales service, and, indeed, a whole host of other considerations, must be a matter for commercial judgment.

Mr. Lane

Has the Minister yet been able to reassure representatives of industry that in the national interests the Industrial Expansion Bill will not now be proceeded with?

Mr. Dell

No, Sir.

Mr. Dickens

Is my hon. Friend aware that some hon. Members on this side of the House regard the response of the Confederation of British Industry to devaluation as being thoroughly unpatriotic, disheartening and defeatist? Will he now in his forthcoming consultations with the C.B.I, make it plain that unless a more positive response takes place from that sector of the economy we shall certainly take steps to ensure that those firms which lag behind are taken into public ownership to encourage the export drive?

Mr. Dell

My hon. Friend will be aware that many companies have made a most positive reaction to devaluation. Although I would not be in agreement with everything that the C.B.I, has recently said, I would refer my hon. Friend to what the C.B.I. Council said on 6th December about the way industrial management should react to the opportunities given by devaluation of increasing their export effort and so forth, with which I am largely in agreement.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will the Under-Secretary of State at once deprecate his hon. Friend's stigmatising of the leaders of British industry as unpatriotic? Is it not a fact that only yesterday evening leaders of the C.B.I, stigmatised Her Majesty's Government as being utterly unrealistic for turning down £200 million of South African arms orders?

Mr. Dell

My hon. Friends have at least as much right to criticise the C.B.I. as the C.B.I, has to criticise the Government.