§ 23. Mr. Patrick Jenkin
asked the President of the Board of Trade what increase in the volume of visible exports he estimates will be necessary in the second half of 1968 in order to achieve the same level of foreign earnings as was achieved in the second half of 1967, adjusted for the effects of the dock strikes; and what increase he is now anticipating.
§ Mr. Crosland
The answer to the first part of the question would depend on how much our export prices fall in terms of foreign currencies. As to the second part, an estimate of the likely increase in the volume of exports between the second half of 1967 and the second half of 1968, adjusted for the effects of the dock strikes, was given in Part III of the Financial Statement. I have nothing to add to this.
§ Mr. Jenkin
Is the President of the Board of Trade telling the House that he can make no estimate of the volume of exports required to come up to the level of last year? How can he possibly support the forecast that there is to be a turn around of 500 million in our visible trade if he does not know the figures?
§ Mr. Crosland
Part 3 of the Financial Statement gives an estimate of the amount. It gives the range—not a single estimate, but two possible estimates—of the amount by which the Government think that the turn around is likely to increase in the second half of this year over the second half of last year.
The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question would mean making a precise estimate of the amount by which export prices were likely to fall 210 in terms of foreign currency, and that would be a foolish thing to do at the moment.
§ Mr. Dickens
Will my right hon. Friend join with me in deploring the reasons for and the economic effects of the dock strikes which took place in London yesterday and today which seem to many of us to pander to the bottomless vanity of the hon. Member for Worcestershire. South (Sir G. Nabarro) and some of his hon. Friends?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have not called the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South. Sir Cyril Osborne.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Apart from the question of dock strikes, will the President of the Board of Trade look at the prices of imports and exports? Since devaluation export prices have increased by only 4½ per cent. whereas import prices have increased by 9½ per cent., which means that our position is getting considerably worse. [Interruption.] Those figures are from a responsible paper, the Economist. When does the President expect the position to start to get better as a result of devaluation?
§ Mr. Crosland
The figures come not from the Economist but from the Board of Trade and were quoted by the Economist. They are, of course, correct. The hon. Gentleman will know that the whole object of devaluation was to get a smaller increase in export prices than import prices. This is what the whole thing was about to a considerable extent.
As to when the trade figures will improve, I have consistently said that I would not suggest any firm certainty of an improvement before the second half of this year. I would not predict that next month or the month after they will necessarily get better, but I strongly believe that in the second half of this year we shall see a marked improvement which will carry on well into 1969 and thereafter.