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Clause 1—(Raising Of Limit On Guaran Tees Under S 2 Of Export Guaran Tees Act, 1949, And Related Transactions)

Volume 649: debated on Friday 17 November 1961

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

11.7 a.m.

Before we leave the Bill and this increase of the sums available under its provisions, is the Minister of State in a position to tell us what action he or his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade now propose to take on the various suggestions that were made from both sides of the House during the Second Reading debate?

A great deal was said then. Are we to have the fuller report and fuller information for which we asked? Are we to have working parties in connection with this matter, or what other investigations are to be made? What are we to be told about the way in which this money is to be used? There were general complaints that information was insufficient and, in those circumstances, since some time has elapsed since the Second Reading, perhaps we could now have the answer to those questions.

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). The Committee will remember that during the Second Reading debate hon. Members ranged very wide into the whole export field. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was delighted to have this general and constructive interest, but the only large outstanding issue that emerged clearly was one of general interest in the whole export field as it touched export credits, or the availability and rate of interest of export finance. As I explained then, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is actively studying this aspect now and I am certainly not in a position to add to that information today.

I am not aware that during the Second Reading debate any points emerged on the narrower issues of export credit insurance itself which needed further reply, though, of course, there were one or two suggestions made by the hon. and learned Gentleman himself about accounts, and these are being considered. I have by letter to certain hon. Members answered individual points that they raised and, with their permission, perhaps I could send the hon. and learned Gentleman copies of those letters. There were not, however, any large outstanding issues on the export credit insurance side that occur to me.

I do not wish to delay the Committee, but can the hon. Gentleman say a little more about one or two matters I specifically mentioned? Is there any reason why a fuller report should not be issued and more understandable figures presented about the disposal of the money with which we are now concerned?

I made a suggestion about working parties in industries to examine the possibilities of the further and better use of these funds, since we all recognise that some industries do not make sufficient use of them. These questions clearly fall within the more restricted scope of this debate, and while I thank the hon. Gentleman for his offer to send me a bundle of letters such as those which he has been distributing among my hon. Friends, and of which, unfortunately, I have not hitherto been a recipient, I am bound to say that the speech I made did not deserve that treatment.

During the Second Reading debate I raised the question of ensuring a wider range of individual transactions. Can my hon. Friend deal further with this point? I also referred to the second part of the Bill and the giving of wider credit and cover in the case of large single items, such as ships and aircraft, which we export. Has the hon. Gentleman anything to say about matching terms which are offered abroad on such agreements?

I apologise to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) for not having made reference to working parties. Our methods of reaching industries and firms to ensure that they are fully aware of the facilities available are under constant review and this is something that must continue to be reconsidered.

To my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) I reluctantly repeat what I said on Second Reading: these subjects are best not discussed in general. As I pointed out in that debate, if my hon. Friend will send me details of any cases where it is suggested that we have not given sufficient help, the matter will be considered.

At the moment I am advised that industry generally recognises that E.C.G.D. gives, with the extensions provided earlier this year in connection with matching cover, as good as any competitor. The grievance of exporters is more focussed on the availability and interest rates of money, and this is a question which the Chancellor of the Exchequer now has under serious consideration.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time and passed.