HC Deb 28 July 1975 vol 896 cc1268-70
4. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the current trade balance in manufactured goods at the latest available date; what considerations have been given to the application of selective import control on these manufactures; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Shore

In the four months March—June 1975 the United Kingdom had a crude trade surplus in manufactured goods of £350 million a month. As regards the second part of the Question, we are prepared to consider action against dumped imports and other special cases on their merits.

Mr. Biffen

In view of the considerable economic debate which has taken place over the past two or three weeks, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that there will be widespread support for his decisive rejection of die Tribune Group philosophy of import controls? Can he assure the House that he will be equally robust in repelling those who wish to enslave our trade with a fixed system of sterling exchange rates?

Mr. Shore

I think that there is good sense in the present arrangements for floating sterling, and I shall certainly not advocate any change in it, although another Department invariably takes the lead in this matter. On import controls, the short answer is that it is not so much a matter of looking to one philosophy or another. What we need to have always in mind is where the best interests of the United Kingdom are to be found.

Mr. Madden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the case for controls of imported textiles is now overwhelming, and that other textile manufacturing countries which have implemented import controls have not suffered from the retaliation which we alone are said to expect if we were to continue the same course of import controls?

Mr. Shore

As I have said many times, if there is evidence of dumping we shall, of course, take up any such complaint very vigorously. Beyond that, however, we must consider the balance of advantage. Whilst it is true that some countries have imposed import controls on textiles, my hon. Friend should be aware that an extensive system of controls on imported textiles is operated by this country. The problem, as my hon. Friend and the whole House well know, is that there has been a collapse of demand for textiles on a large scale, certainly in the major consuming countries. The result is that we are all under pressure.

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