HC Deb 01 March 1982 vol 19 cc4-5
4. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what has been the balance of trade in manufactures with the rest of the European Economic Community for each of the last six months.

Mr. Biffen

In the last four months of 1981 there was a crude deficit of about £1, 400 million. With permission, I shall circulate the available monthly information for 1981 in the Official Report.

Mr. Marlow

My right hon. Friend says that in the last four months of 1981 there was a crude deficit of £1, 400 million. That is a very considerable amount. In view of the recovery and massive increase in productivity that is taking place in British industry, does my right hon. Friend see the prospect of this deficit reducing significantly? Or does he see it, like the Japanese deficit, as a matter about which hon. Members should be concerned?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend is right. This is a deficit of great significance. Just under half of it is accounted for by road vehicles. I would not care to make an assessment of whether there will be a reduced deficit in the year in prospect.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

What is the right hon. Gentleman's latest estimate of the likely loss of exports and jobs if Britain were to withdraw from the European Economic Community?

Mr. Biffen

That would depend almost entirely on what replacement arrangements were made.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is not the deficit almost exactly the same as the combined deficit with the United States, Japan and EFTA? Do not these three together take a smaller proportion of our exports that the EEC as a whole? Is it not further a fact that our export-import ratio with the EEC is still more favourable than that with the United States, and about three times as favourable as that with Japan?

Mr. Biffen

Broadly speaking, I agree with those propositions, but I am not quite certain that I could validate the individual statistics that my hon. Friend has quoted.

Following is the information:



1981 £ million, OTS basis
January -18
February -144
September -357
October* -164
November -515
December -336
Source: Overseas Trade Statistics of the United Kingdom.
Notes: Figures for March to August are not yet available due to the Civil Service pay dispute.
*The October export figures are inflated as a result in the system of documenting exports.