§ 1 Mr. Sproat
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the latest balance of trade with Iran.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. Eric Deakins)
The crude deficit on trade with Iran was £234 million in 1974 compared with £68 million in 1973. Between the years the value of imports rose by 116 per cent., reflecting the rise in oil prices, and the value of exports by 65 per cent. In the first quarter of this year exports have continued to rise while imports were 7 per cent. lower than in the first quarter of last year.
§ Mr. Sproat
I appreciate the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given and the steps which his Department has taken to help achieve this, but is it not a fact that although our figures have risen by 65 per cent., over the same period the Americans and the Japanese have increased the value of their exports by over 100 per cent.? Is it not also a fact that although we recently signed a contract for about £500 million with Iran, the French, just before, signed one for over four times that value? Is it not rather sad—and typical—that we are actually losing our share of the OPEC market?
§ Mr. Deakins
We are certainly not losing our share in particular markets. However, if we take the OPEC countries as a whole, our performance last year was not as good as that of some of our industrial competitors. Percentage figures can be misleading. It depends upon the 990 base figure. We were well established in these markets and other countries were not. It is therefore possible for them to achieve much greater proportional percentage increases than ours. Nevertheless, I am confident that the steps that the Government are taking and, more important, the steps that British industry is taking in these markets will ensure that we receive a bigger share in the future.
§ Mr. Robert Taylor
What is the point of a junior Minister from the Department of the Environment visiting the Building Materials Export Group's stand at Teheran next month? Surely, if a Minister is going, it should be a job for a Minister from the hon. Member's Department?
§ Mr. Deakins
Department of Trade Ministers are travelling to many other countries this year. The Secretary of State has visited the Gulf States recently, and also Iran. There are plans for further visits later this year. Certainly we should not in any way want to stop other Ministers in specialised areas going to support the efforts of specialised teams of British industrialists trying to sell their products in overseas markets.