HC Deb 19 February 1997 vol 290 cc922-3
18. Mr. Touhig

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the balance of payments current account. [15040]

Mr. John M. Taylor

The balance of payments current account was close to balance during the first three quarters of 1996—the strongest performance for a decade.

Mr. Touhig

But will not 1996 be the 11th consecutive year in which the balance of payments current account has been in deficit? The Treasury forecasts an even wider deficit in the next two years, giving Britain the longest run of balance of payments deficits for 130 years. Are the Government proud of that record?

Mr. Taylor

The current account balance was strong in 1985–87, was weak in 1989–90, and is strong again now. As I have said before, there have been only six years since 1946 in which there was a surplus in visible trade: 1956, 1958, 1971, 1980, 1981 and 1982. All those were years in which there was a Conservative Government.

Mr. Stephen

Does my hon. Friend agree that a factor of great importance to British exporters is the value of the British pound? If the pound becomes too strong, it will be much more difficult for British exporters to win in foreign markets. Is there not a case, perhaps, for cutting interest rates to reduce the value of the pound?

Mr. Taylor

That is properly a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.