HC Deb 08 November 1982 vol 31 cc301-2
10. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Minister for Trade what was the percentage change in the positive or negative balance of trade in manufactures with the European Economic Community and the rest of the world, respectively, between 1978 and the latest available date in 1982.

Mr. Peter Rees

Between 1978 and the 12 months ended September this year the deficit on our trade in manufactures with the European Community increased by 128 per cent. and the surplus on our trade with the rest of the world declined by 4 per cent. In the same period, however, the surplus on our overall balance of payments increased by 300 per cent.

Mr. Evans

As trading with the Community has been disadvantageous for agriculture and more recently for fisheries, where is the advantage in trading with the Community when there has been a deficit in the manufacturing sector since 1978?

Mr. Rees

We have tariff-free access to one of the largest and fastest growing markets in the world.

Mr. Budgen

How long does my hon. and learned Friend expect it will take the EEC to renegotiate the terms of trade with Spain in respect of engineering products? How long does he think it would have taken the United Kingdom by herself to renegotiate those terms if she were not in the EEC?

Mr. Rees

I could not give the answer to either question. The negotiations on the accession of Spain to the European Community have been momentarily put in cold storage as a result of the election in Spain. However, I hope that they will be concluded shortly. If we had been negotiating bilaterally, outside the Community, with Spain, I could not say what would have happened. However, I doubt whether we would have had the same negotiating weight as we do as a member of the Community.

Mr. Hoyle

Does the Minister agree that the appalling figures for trade in manufactured goods with the EEC show that the EEC, far from creating jobs in manufacturing, destroys them? Does that not show the wisdom of the Labour Party's policy to withdraw from the EEC, so that we can plan our own trade in future?

Mr. Rees

Certainly not. If the hon. Gentleman were to look at the statistics he would find that in the 10 years before 1972 our share of world manufactured exports was diminishing at about twice the rate at which it has diminished since our accession to the European Community.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that in none of the 10 years before our membership did we have a deficit with the EEC in manufacturing and that we now have a deficit that is so big that it is equivalent to £400 million a month or 600,000 jobs? Will my hon. and learned Friend accept that that is a case for looking into the matter and seeing what has gone wrong?

Mr. Rees

No, Sir, because I believe that the conclusions that my hon. Friend drew from the statistics are spurious. My hon. Friend always conveniently overlooks our trade in oil and services with the Community.