HC Deb 26 January 1989 vol 145 cc1167-8
6. Mr. Buckley

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will provide his latest forecast for growth in the United Kingdom's visible exports in 1989.

Mr. Brooke

As set out in the Autumn Statement, exports of goods are expected to rise by 7 per cent. in 1989.

Mr. Buckley

Does the Chancellor consider that that is exceedingly optimistic in the view of the Government's high interest rate policy, which seems to be undermining British industry, and the lack of investment in future research and development, which will certainly undermine future balances of payments? Would that the balance of payments was in surplus, as the Chancellor constantly boasts about the public sector borrowing requirement.

Mr. Brooke

In the CBI's January quarterly survey, a larger balance of firms than in any quarterly survey since April 1987 is shown expecting export order books to rise over the next few months.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the difference between today's visible exports and those under the previous Labour Government is that today's visible exports generate profits while in 1979 they were generated out of losses, particularly in major industries such as steel, coal and so on?

Mr. Brooke

I am not sure that I could effect that precise correlation, but there was a great deal more subsidy to manufacturing industry in those days than in these.

Mr. Holland

The Government's optimism on visible trade reminds some Opposition Members of the words of a former Chancellor, Mr. Gladstone, who, shortly before he died, said, "I feel better now." It is clear that the Government are expecting a miracle on the visible trade side. When will they realise that the miracle has not been changing water into wine but transforming the wine of North sea oil into massive interest rate rises, and a chronic structural deficit?

Mr. Brooke

The dying words of Lord Palmerston were Die, my dear Doctor, that's the last thing I shall do!" The Government are alive and well and continue to have confidence in their forecasts.

Mr. Brazier

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the growth in visible exports over the last two years, and, indeed, expected growth over the next year, has played an important part in the fall in unemployment in my constituency from 11 per cent. to below 6 per cent? Will he join me in congratulating two small companies in Whitstable, one selling printing materials to Japan and the other electrical parts to Taiwan?

Mr. Brooke

My hon. Friend is entirely correct in identifying the linkage between exports and jobs and I congratulate the two firms in his constituency.

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