§ 14. Mr. Ioan Evans
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what are the latest balance of payments figures; and what further action is proposed to increase exports and reduce imports.
§ Mr. Evans
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on those figures and the tremendous improvement since March 1974. Will he, however, avoid complacency and look again at the request made by the TUC and the CBI to introduce selective import controls? Meanwhile, since the British car and television component manufacturing industries are working below capacity, will he consider the launching of a "Buy British" campaign?
§ Mr. Dell
The hon. Gentleman said "In spite of the Government ". It was his Government who permitted the country to run into serious balance of payments deficit, even before the oil price increase. There are a number of areas in which we already use selective import controls, but I and the Government would oppose any attempt to use the term "selective controls" as a guise for covering a policy of general import controls, which is an idea we reject. As for buying British, we have encouraged British industry to locate its purchases in the United Kingdom where possible.
On the question of cars, which we discussed earlier, private consumers will be greatly influenced by the availability of British cars. That is a much more impor- 300 tant factor than any "Buy British" campaign.
§ Mr. Powell
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that a surplus on current account is always and necessarily balanced by an export of capital to the same value? Is that his intention?
§ Mr. Dell
The right hon. Gentleman's questions about the operation of exchange control in this country are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not for me. As for the equation he makes, it is also true—as the other part of the equation to which the right hon. Gentleman frequently refers—that the current account will be greatly affected if there are not the capital movements necessary to finance it.
§ Mr. Heffer
Although I welcome the obvious advances that have been made in exports, is my right hon. Friend aware that at Aintree the Courtaulds company is about to lay off 1,800 workers in the textile industry unless it receives a temporary employment subsidy? That is serious for an area like Merseyside, where there is an unemployment rate of 12.1 per cent. Reverting to a previous Question, does it not mean that the Multi-Fibre Arrangement must be renegotiated at the earliest moment, the workers kept at work and assistance given to them?
§ Mr. Dell
Matters regarding temporary employment subsidy are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. As for the renegotiation of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement, Courtaulds is fully aware of the Government's intention in that respect. Indeed, we have had many messages of support from Courtaulds for the attitude we are taking in the renegotiation.