HC Deb 14 July 1980 vol 988 cc1042-3
12. Mr. Beaumont-Dark

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what assessment he has made of how the export-import ratio for the United Kingdom's trade with the European Economic Community has varied over the past decade.

Mr. Parkinson

The export-import ratio for our visible trade with the European Community declined sharply during the first half of the last decade, but it has subsequently recovered and last year was at its highest level since 1971.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

I thank my hon. Friend for that interesting answer. Is he aware that most business men agree that we must export or die and therefore, obviously, they would support free trade between Common Market countries? However, is he aware that many manufacturers in this country feel that they are the only people who are playing the game by the rules? When such instances are brought to his attention, will my right hon. Friend ensure a speedy investigation and speedy answers, because that would help our exporters a great deal?

Mr. Parkinson

My hon. Friend has voiced a widely held concern. Where the facts are presented to us we take action promptly. Our anti-dumping unit works with industry to produce cases to put to the Commission. We should not understate the measure of British achievement. Against these barriers, we have increased our exports to the Community by more than 500 per cent. since we joined.

Mr. Straw

In 1970, the year before we applied to join, we were in surplus with the EEC Six to the tune of about £100 million. Are we now in surplus, or in deficit; and what are the figures?

Mr. Parkinson

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman took the precaution of discovering the answer before he asked the question The figure is £2.7 billion in deficit.

Mr. Skinner

In view of that enormous figure, which has been growing since we joned the Common Market, and bearing in mind that both sides of the House are anxious not to injure the Thirld world in any attempt to restore the balance of trade, does the Minister agree that we should try to get back to the £100 million in our favour, which was the position before we entered the Common Market? Does he agree also that if import controls are to be introduced, they should be introduced in that area?

Mr. Parkinson

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, I always like to please him. In 1970 our exports to the EEC covered 71 per cent. of our imports. Last year that figure was 86 per cent.

Mr. Gummer

Game, set and match again.