HC Deb 04 December 1973 vol 865 cc1083-5
Q3. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Prime Minister whether the broadcast of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on "The World at One" on Tuesday 13th November, on the trade figures, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Kaufman

Does the Prime Minister recall that in that broadcast his right hon. Friend attempted to explain away the staggering trade deficit by reference to unexpected arrivals of oil and diamonds, together with what he called the arrival of some very big tankers, but that in the same broadcast he failed to mention the £75 million computer under-recording of imports? Was that honest?

The Prime Minister

What my right hon. Friend said was that three major factors accounted for a large part of the increase in imports during that month. If the hon. Gentleman scoffs at the question of tankers, I reply that the average import is £15 million and that last month it was £60 million, a substantial increase, which goes to account for the increase in imports. As to the industrial action at London Airport which prevented the completion of the figures by the date of publication, we have said that we shall announce those figures with the next trade figures. We shall correct the trade figures by the amounts which arrived at London Airport. That seemed to us the right way of handling the matter. I could have asked that the publication of the trade figures be postponed until we had the accurate figures for imports, but, as I had announced at the beginning of this year the dates on which all Government statistics would be published, so that there could be no question of their not always being published at the exact time, I decided to go ahead with the date of publication.

Sir R. Cary

Does not the Question prove again that it is always unwise to take a single month's figures, instead of taking them with other months, some of which are more successful?

The Prime Minister

That was what was always said by the hon. Member who asked the Question, when he was the Leader of the Opposition's Press Secretary.