HC Deb 06 November 1968 vol 772 cc877-8
25. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether in future, he will include in the monthly import figures the purchase of American military aircraft or missiles, so as to give a more accurate picture of the real balance of payments.

Mr. Dell

The import figures published monthly are shown both including and excluding arrivals of American military aircraft and associated equipment.

Mr. Digby

Does not this practice of excluding them look too much like an exercise by the Government in wishful thinking with regard to imports? If the real test is to be date of payment and not delivery, should not the same principle, in fairness, be applied to exports, which would make these figures look rather different?

Mr. Dell

The figures are shown in those published including American military equipment. They are treated separately because these imports are large, special and completely documented items. The reason for their exclusion from the visible trade balance figures is the effect they would have on the presentation of the balance of payments figures because, in this respect—and this is the main problem of the balance of payments as against the balance of trade—there are compensating credit entries.

Mr. Corfield

But the same could apply to a large number of other items which are not pieces of defence equipment. This differentiation makes nonsense of the figures. For example, what about the proposed purchase by B.O.A.C, with dollars, of American aircraft? Surely this is exactly the same principle but it is treated differently.

Mr. Dell

The problem is not as great as the hon. Gentleman suggests because all the figures are presented. If the hon. Gentleman wanted, for example, to look at payments and drawings, he would find them in the quarterly estimates given in "Economic Trends". All the information is available and to segregate it in this way actually increases the amount of information available to those who study both our balance of payments and our balance of trade.

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