HC Deb 06 November 1968 vol 772 cc880-1
29. Mr. Biffen

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the value of British exports to South Africa for the year to date, and what percentage change this represents over the corresponding period in 1967 and 1966, respectively.

Mr. Crosland

£196 million to the end of September, which is 3 per cent. less than in the corresponding period of 1967 and 14 per cent. more than in the corresponding period of 1966.

Mr. Biffen

Does not the very magnitude of these figures indicate the rich and beneficial opportunities which there are for Britain in the southern half of Africa, and ought that not to be a major factor in the negotiations now being concluded with Mr. Ian Smith?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. The Rhodesian question is altogether a different question which is not for me to answer. The hon. Gentleman must know by now that I have made it clear that I support the highest possible level of civilian trade with South Africa.

Mr. Orme

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there has been a comparable drain of sterling into South Africa in recent years which in itself has adversely affected our balance of payments?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. I gave the figures for our direct private investment in South Africa in answer to a previous Question a few minutes ago. The facts do not seem to support my hon. Friend's conclusion.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the right hon. Gentleman complete those figures by giving the value of the exports which South Africa was prepared to buy from this country and which the Government refused to allow British exporters to supply, such as Nimrod aircraft?

Mr. Crosland

It was not simply a matter of the British Government refusing to allow these exports to South Africa. The British Government acted under the terms of the United Nations Security Council resolution. However, to get the record straight I will say that, with one or two possible exceptions, all other major industrial countries are adopting the same policy as we are.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm that in no circumstances whatever will military weapons be sent to South Africa?

Mr. Crosland

Yes, Sir. I can reaffirm the Government's policy which has been made absolutely clear on more than one occasion.