§ 2. Mr. Canavan
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the latest balance of trade in manufactured goods.
§ Mr. Alan Clark
In the first quarter of 1988 there was an estimated deficit on trade in manufacturers of £2.9 billion.
§ Mr. Canavan
When does the Minister expect the Government to get trade in manufactured goods back to the surplus that they inherited from the previous Labour Government?
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
Does my hon. Friend agree that two problems face manufacturing industries and the balance at present? First, it seems that the Government, for some unknown reason, wish to keep the pound higher than it conceivably should be, which is dangerous for manufacturing industry. Secondly, when there is a monopolies and mergers problem, which we all have in manufacturing industry, the Government must look to 1992 and not stop companies such as Cadbury and Rowntree, which may like to merge, when others are not stopped from approaching them. Do we not have to look at this as a matter of urgency, and not in some cosy, quiet way?
§ Mr. James Lamond
Why does the Minister not try to help resolve the dreadful balance of payments problem and save his own job at the same time by clamping down much more firmly on the unfair competition from Turkish yarn and textiles, which is beginning to threaten the fragile recovery of our textile industry and is already causing redundancies in textile firms in the north-west of England?
§ Sir John Farr
Is my hon. Friend aware that the other day one of the biggest hosiery manufacturers in Leicester equipped itself with Italian knitting machines? When purchases of that magnitude go abroad, does my hon. Friend look into the reason why, and if not, does he not think that in future large acquisitions of such foreign machinery should be monitored?
§ Mr. Clark
I do not find that objectionable. I regret that we do not make knitting machines in this country that are acceptable to the firm in my hon. Friend's constituency. As I told the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), we are in equilibrium on capital goods, exports and imports. If those machines are used to manufacture finished products that will be exported and sold, all the better, I say.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That shows the benefit of appearing on television so frequently.
Does the Minister realise that his complacent answer amounted to saying that we are in balance except for the deficit in manufactured trade? Does he not realise the horrendous effect of the 18 per cent. rise of the pound sterling in real terms since the end of 1986, which will be disastrous for manufacturing industry? To illustrate that, may I ask him whether, in his view, the deficit in manufactured trade—in the first quarter it was running at£11.5 billion per annum compared to a surplus in 1978 of £.5.5 billion, updated to 1987 values, which is a turnaround of £17 billion in manufactured trade—represents a loss of 750,000 jobs, 1 million jobs or 12.5 million jobs?