HC Deb 08 July 1969 vol 786 cc1134-6
3. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has now made of the out-turn of the balance of payments in 1969.

21. Mr. Speed

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date he estimates a balance of payments surplus of £500 million will have been achieved in the preceding 12 months.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I have nothing to add to what I told the House on 23rd and 25th June.—[Vol. 785, c. 1001–10 and 1521–34.]

Mr. Sheldon

While I understand that the Chancellor's reply was fairly recent and I do not wish to press him further on the precise levels expected this year, may I ask him to say something about the likely out-turn upon investment, and its effect as predicated from the figures that he has put forward on the balance of payments?

Mr. Jenkins

I would not wish to revise the view of the course of investment which I gave in my Budget Statement. This took account of the possibility of some revising downwards of very optimistic assumptions which had been put forward earlier. Since then there have been a number of indications. The latest one published in the Financial Times yesterday morning was a favourable one.

Mr. Amery

Would the Chancellor not agree that if he should fail to reach his target on the balance of payments, which could happen for reasons outside the Government's control as well as through their own responsibility, there would be no growth in the economy at all under the commitment into which he has entered in the Letter of Intent? Had he not better come clean and tell the House honestly that he has accepted a system of automatic deflation as rigid as the old gold standard?

Mr. Jenkins

The answer to all parts of that question is "No, Sir".

18. Mr. Maurice Macmillan

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he now expects to be able to announce the results of the general review on the presentation of the balance of payments.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Alternative methods of presentation are still being considered, and I am not yet in a position to say when an announcement will be made.

Mr. Macmillan

Since the President of the Board of Trade has adopted the suggestion of isolating the United States aircraft, will the Chancellor consider adopting the other two suggestions that I made at the same time of publishing the quarterly figures for private investment and the quarterly figures for invisible trade? I understand that both those figures are available in the Treasury. Does he agree that this gives a better example of our trading position than the so-called estimated balance of visible trade monthly?

Mr. Jenkins

The last time I endeavoured to give a comprehensive answer to a very long supplementary question by the hon. Gentleman, the House thought that the answer was getting rather long. Therefore, I will merely say that I will consider his proposals together with other proposals.

Mr. Cant

Is there any precedent for a shadow Minister of Health asking over a long period such esoteric questions about very technical aspects of the balance of payments?

Mr. Iain Macleod

Accepting the error on the export side, about which the Chancellor told the House, does not the size of the balancing item over the last few years make it more than likely that there may be an error on the import side of the ledger? Will the Chancellor assure us that he will pursue what may be an unfavourable error with a zeal equal to that with which he pursued the favourable one?

Mr. Jenkins

I should most certainly pursue any error with equal zeal, but I am afraid that the results might disappoint the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. The size of the balancing item does not indicate anything of the kind. Indeed, it was the size of the balancing item which first led us to believe that there might be some error in the export figure. Anyone with experience of the attention which the Customs and Excise applies to incoming baggage compared with outgoing baggage will realise that imports are checked a good deal more carefully than exports.