§ 13. Mr. Garel-Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the current comparison between the level of exports per capita by the United Kingdom and Japan.
§ Mr. Garel-Jones
Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures give the lie to those who consistently try to denigrate British industry and workers? Does he agree also that they further underline the fact that if we can improve productivity this country has a great economic future?
§ Mr. John Smith
Is the Secretary of State aware that the main handicaps faced by our exporters are Government 1044 policy and the persistently high over-valuation of the pound? Is he aware that it has been calculated that British competitiveness has declined by 30 per cent. since this Government took office? When will they take action to remove the terrible handicaps on our exporters?
§ Mr. Nott
The principal decline in United Kingdom competitiveness has come about through labour costs, although it is true that with a strong pound it is more difficult to compete with other countries. However, the North Sea is there, and there is no way in which we can wish it away. If the right hon. Gentleman were in government he, too, would be unable to force the pound down.
§ Mr. Adley
Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that a "Buy British" campaign over Japanese cars, or anything else, would be a form of economic nationalism that would leave us open to terrible retribution by other countries following the same policy? In view of the figures that have been given, which demonstrate the importance of our exports, should we not bear that in mind?
§ Mr. Nott
Whisky is our largest export to Japan. There are controls against our footwear and leather goods. However, we have a network of restraint agreements. About one-third of our imports from Japan are under some kind of restraint, but the hon. Gentleman is right. The Japanese still maintain an unsatisfactory network of non-tariff barriers, and we are doing our best with our European partners to get these down.