HC Deb 02 May 1974 vol 872 cc1310-1
15. Mr. Dalyell

asked the chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give the latest convenient figures for the Anglo-German balance of payments situation.

Mr. Dell

I regret that no reliable estimates of our balance of payments with individual countries are available. However, it is likely that there was a current account deficit, arising mainly from visible trade, of over £500 million with the German Federal Republic in 1973.

Mr. Dalyell

Will my right hon. Friend select the most sceptical and hard-headed of his Treasury officials and detail them to scrutinise the MRCA project in order to discover how the BAC says that it will be £3 million plus on aircraft, whereas some members of the Defence Committee of the Bundestag say that it will be £9 million on aircraft? Without necessarily asking either our Chancellor of the Exchequer or Helmut Schmidt to commit infanticide on a project born in their previous incarnations as their countries' Ministers of Defence, may I ask what outside information the Treasury has, free of the Ministry of Defence and free of the aircraft companies, on the viability of the MRCA—which may be vulnerable to SAM missiles, and no good anyway?

Mr. Dell

I am sorry that my hon. Friend thinks that we are anything but sceptical in the Treasury when considering advanced technology projects. My hon. Friend will be aware that there is always uncertainty in the costing of such projects—a fact of which there is much experience—but I remind him that the MRCA project will be considered in the course of the defence review.

Mr. Dykes

Bearing in mind that the import propensity of the Germans appears to be as great as ours but that they do much better over the long term than we do, does the Minister feel that he and his colleagues should consider ways of encouraging physical exports in order to sustain the export progression which we have experienced in recent years?

Mr. Dell

That is a question for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. But I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman; we very much need to improve our export performance in Germany.