HC Deb 06 July 1967 vol 749 cc1973-4
17. Sir J. Eden

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs by what means he is making certain that British goods are as competitive as anything that could be imported.

Mr. Harold Lever

The Government play their part in this through their industrial policies and the work of the Economic Development Committees, which help to increase efficiency and productivity, thus improving our competitiveness.

Sir J. Eden

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Prime Minister that greater competitiveness will be achieved only when there are better incentives and prospects of greater reward; and what hope is there of securing either of these advantages so long as Government expenditure and taxation both continue to rise?

Mr. Lever

Apart from the fact that this advice would not come to the Prime Minister with the shock of novelty, I am afraid that I cannot offer to use such opportunities as I have of communication with the Prime Minister in so sterile a way.

Mr. McNamara

Will my hon. Friend publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT—and give some indication of it now—information about what import-saving industries have been established and have increased their competitiveness?

Mr. Lever

I should prefer that question to be put upon the Order Paper.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Surely even the present Government must realise that if the Government deliberately restrict home markets and make it difficult to sell in them, obviously imports must come in based on better markets and at much more competitive prices?

Mr. Lever

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate the difficulties that result from balance of payments problems. This is one of the consequences of the restrictionist phase in dealing with the balance of payments problems. As has already been pointed out this afternoon, the balance of payments problems have to be dealt with, and the responsibility for them is firmly understood, I am sure, by the hon. Gentleman to belong to our predecessors.

Mr. Pavitt

Can my hon. Friend say whether the Department is making any special efforts to cope with the possible large increase of imports if we go into the Common Market and to increase the competitiveness of British goods in order to prevent that?

Mr. Lever

I think that my hon. Friend will get a more satisfactory answer if he puts that question on the Order Paper.