HL Deb 08 March 1979 vol 399 cc293-4

3.14 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 to what extent have exports abroad been cancelled as the result of overseas import licences expiring due to the delays experienced at the docks and the inability of firms to get their goods transported for export in time.


My Lords, companies have notified very few cases of such cancellations. There may be cases which have not been brought to the Government's attention, but the expiry of overseas import licences appears to have had only a very slight effect on total United Kingdom export levels.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Is he aware that, in some consumer industries, catching the seasonal market is absolutely vital if orders are to be obtained, and that such delays have often affected international trade fairs?

Is the noble Lord further aware that the figures which he may have implied, and which were apposite to that moment of export, relate merely to the exhibits in a trade fair, from which enormous orders could flow? Does he not agree that it is not completely fair to say that because the bulk or the value—of orders involved was moderate, the eventual loss was not very serious indeed?


My Lords, of course I agree with the noble Baroness that we must consider not merely the immediate effects of such a strike, but also the long-term effects. Such occurrences do no credit to our ability to deliver, and I am entirely with the noble Baroness on that point.


My Lords, is it possible for Her Majesty's Government to consider consulting the ECGD (the Export Credits Guarantee Department) on whether it is possible to extend cover to the kind of risk we are discussing?


My Lords, I think that that is another question. In general, the liabilities that arc carried by that Department are liabilities which occur overseas. If one changes that situation and starts to include internal liabilities, there will be no limit to where one would have to go, and I am very doubtful whether the suggestion should be considered.


My Lords, has the noble Lord seen the report or memorandum from the British Chamber of Commerce, France, on this matter? If he has not, will he look at it to consider whether it would be desirable to pass copies to the trade unions concerned?


My Lords, I have not seen the document, but I should be very pleased to look at it and bear in mind what the noble Lord has said.