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National Finance

Volume 436: debated on Thursday 24 April 1947

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Sterling Balances

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will, in future, include in the monthly statistics of exports, the total value of these exports that are made a against cancellation of sterling balances in this country.

No, Sir. This suggestion is totally impracticable.

Could not the Chancellor think of some alternative means whereby support can be given to the strong statement in his Budget speech about which very many people agree with him?

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, and we will certainly consider what means we have to do that, but his principle is impracticable, as the hon. Gentleman will realise, because the figures which would be given would be the outcome of trade with all countries, and not only with the United Kingdom, and it also depends on capital movements, invisibles and other items.

Suez Canal Shares

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what approaches have been made by the Egyptian Government for the disposal of the Suez Canal shares held by His Majesty's Government; and if he will give an assurance that these shares will not be disposed of without the prior approval of this House.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that none of these shares has been offered to the Russian Government?

None of the shares owned by His Majesty's Government has been offered to any other person or Government.

Silk Stockings (Dollar Expenditure)

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many dollars have been spent during the last year on the import from the U.S.A. of pure silk stockings.

Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer give an assurance that he will save dollars by ceasing to buy silk stockings from America, and encourage our own industry to get on with the job itself?

This year; as I have already announced, we shall soon see in the shops, I hope, some very excellent home-made silk stockings and some may come from the hon. and gallant Gentleman's constituency for all I know to the contrary.

Football (Entertainments Duty)

56.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has yet completed the inquiries he undertook to make on 8th October last, for the purpose of ascertaining whether all football clubs have been passing on to the public the full benefit of the reduction in Entertainment Tax; and whether he will now make a statement.

I am satisfied that, on the whole, the English clubs have kept the pledge they made to me. The Scottish clubs, which gave me no such pledge, say they are too poor to follow England's example.

Sterling Convertible Agreements

57 and 58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) with what countries His Majesty's Government have concluded agreements of convertibility of sterling and what is the estimated total of sterling to be converted during the financial year 1947–48 under such agreements;

(2) if it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to ensure that any agreements for the convertibility of sterling include an arrangement that credit balances of currency held by this country of the currency concerned are equally convertible.

Agreements have been concluded with the Argentine, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, and we have a working arrangement on similar lines with Canada. As I explained in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member the day before yesterday, no estimate can be given of the amounts involved, since they depend not only on our own transactions with the countries concerned, but also upon their transactions with other countries, in so far as these are settled in sterling. As regards the credit balances of other countries, I would refer him to my answer the day before yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Sharp).

Is not the Chancellor of the Exchequer slightly apprehensive of what his colleague has said? Here we are, with very strained resources, and apparently His Majesty's Government do not know what these agreements are to cost this country. Surely there must be some estimate as to what additional liability is to be put on our foreign exchange?

I am sorry to have to repeat myself. The point really is that this depends on multilateral trading arrangements, including the movement of invisible items, as I explained in reply to a similar Question just now. I do not want to give an estimate that cannot be sustained by argument. This is a case where no estimate can be given. Of course, we are watching the movement of events very carefully.