HL Deb 06 February 1967 vol 279 cc1141-4

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have considered in respect of short term, medium term and long term export credits respectively the relationship between such credits covered by export credit guarantees and the balance of payments; whether the wide use of such guaranteed credits has resulted in an increase of exports; and what is the effect on the balance of payments of instalment repayments of these credits.]


My Lords, the answer to the first part of the question is, Yes. Similarly the answer to the second part is, Yes. With regard to the third part, every time an instalment repayment is received, our balance of payments benefits both from the capital repayment and from the interest due.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer, but may I say that I find it singularly uninformative? I had hoped that it would be possible for him, if I may use the term, to quantify the answer and to give us some information as to the extent to which the use of export credit guarantees has increased exports. Perhaps I phrased my Question clumsily, and if so I apologise and will return to it on another occasion.


My Lords, I am sorry that I have not been able to satisfy my noble friend more fully on his Ques- tion. I certainly would not accuse him of phrasing it clumsily. I am afraid I must tell him that it is impossible—if the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, will allow me to repeat that particular word—to"quantify"the benefits which come from the export credit guarantees, because it is impossible, of course, to know which exports could have taken place without them. But, in the main, I think we can say that the bulk of the exports covered by E.C.G.D. have taken place because E.C.G.D. is there, and, that being so, it means that a very large part of our exports have benefited from this scheme. But it would be very misleading if I attempted to give that proportion.


My Lords, can my noble friend tell us what is the result of the consideration which the Government say they have given to the first part of the Question?


My Lords, I am afraid that I shall once more have to look at the first part of the Question. I think I can say that the result is precisely what I said in my answer to the first supplementary question; that we are satisfied that a very large part of the exports are now covered by E.C.G.D. and therefore that a large proportion of them—though I cannot give the exact figures—has taken place as a result of E.C.G.D. The short answer (and I always attempt to give short and precise answers) to it is, Yes; which is why I gave that as my answer in the first place to my noble friend.


My Lords, I presume that exports, whether unrequited or paid for, figure at their paid-for value in the export statistics. At what stage in our balance-of-payments figures is the adjustment made for those exports which are not paid for except over a long period of time?


My Lords, putting this in a very simple form—possibly too simple for those who are trained accountants or knowledgeable about such matters—may I say that when an export is made under E.C.G.D. the total value of the export is put down on the credit side; but the amount still outstanding, shall we say 80 per cent., which is covered by E.C.G.D., is put down on the debit side, and each year as that debit is paid off it is transferred to the credit side. Therefore, a true picture is presented in our export statistics and our trade statistics.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether it is not the case that somewhere about December, 1964, the Board of Trade made a statistical inquiry into the effect of E.C.G.D. credit; whether that inquiry was on a voluntary basis; why the inquiry should not have been on the basis of the power of asking for statistics from industry, and whether they have any figures to give from the results of their inquiry?


My Lords, we consider it is far better to enlist the cooperation of industry in these matters and therefore to do it on a voluntary basis, rather than to use any compulsory powers which may exist or to ask for any further compulsory powers. I am quite sure that the co-operation which we have received from industry, and for which we are very grateful, comes to a large extent from that attitude. So far as the results of that inquiry are concerned, I should have to look them up, and if they can be given to people outside the Board of Trade I shall be very glad to inform the noble Lord of them in writing.


My Lords, is it not true to say that unless we had the facilities of E.C.G.D. there would be precious little in the way of capital goods exported to-day?


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Rhodes has far greater experience in these matters than I have and I should certainly agree with what he says.


My Lords, if the explanation of the noble Lord of the accountancy of this process is correct, would it not be perfectly easy to give us the position with regard to any particular year at any time?


My Lords, it would be perfectly easy to give the amount of goods covered by E.C.G.D. loans and guarantees at the present time; there is no problem about that. But as I understood my noble friend's Question I did not think that that was precisely what he was asking for, which was why I did not give it.

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