HC Deb 17 December 1979 vol 976 cc15-7
20. Mr. Austin Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the current level of the British export trade.

Mr. Parkinson

No, Sir. The volume of our exports has recovered well in the second half of this year, but I believe that there is room for further improvement.

Mr. Mitchell

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the major problem facing our exporters is the heavy overvaluation of the £ sterling, which is hitting exports and subsidising a flood of imports that are eliminating jobs in this country? The result is that we are now perilously close to becoming a net importer of manufactured goods. As no conceivable increase in productivity can overcome the over-valuation barrier, will the hon. Gentleman hold talks with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and make urgent representations for an The Government seem to do nothing about it. They merely sit back and smile.

Mr. Parkinson

I think that the hon. Gentleman is overstating his case. Imports are a relatively small proportion of our consumption. We export a small part of our coal. We need imports to get the proper mix.

Following is the information:

engineered devaluation to eliminate the over-valuation barrier for exporters?

Mr. Parkinson

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman's misguided question is "No, Sir".

Mr. William Clark

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a mistake to blame the so-called over-valued pound? Does he further agree that we are lacking competitive prices? The price of exports is only one element. Does my hon. Friend agree that delivery dates and after-sales service are equally important?

Mr. Parkinson

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. In my discussions with manufacturers I find that they, too, accept that there is scope, by improved design, improved quality, better productivity, better delivery dates and better after-sales service, to counter some of the problems—I admit that there are some—that are caused by the harder currency.

Mr. Dalyell

I am sorry to come back to a further question about knitwear, but the industry is in a critical state. Will a study be made of the various difficulties that are faced by British knitwear exporters in the markets of our EEC partners?

Mr. Parkinson

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his persistence and on the way in which he supports an important industry. I shall take his comments into account.

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