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Eec And Efta Countries

Volume 886: debated on Monday 17 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the average monthly deficit in 1974 on an Overseas Trade Account basis in United Kingdom trade with the eight other members of the European Community and with EFTA.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the figure for the European Community contains a significant oil element? Does he also agree that, as the EFTA population is only one-fifth of the EEC population, we did rather worse on a population basis with EFTA than with the EEC last year?

I agree that the figure for trade with the European Community contains an oil element, but it is relatively small in the context of our total trade with the EEC. The EFTA deficit is larger than I would wish and reflects almost wholly the doubling of the price of forest products of all kinds, for which EFTA is our principal source of supply.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the figures should be treated with the most scrupulous care. Does he recall that at the end of October in his departmental publication his statisticians gave their reasons for our deficit with the EEC but they did not mention membership of the Community as being one of them? When will the right hon. Gentleman do as he has been asked and publish the facts on which he bases his insinuations that our membership of the EEC is the principal cause of the size of our deficit?

I have not said that. The only conclusion I can draw from what the hon. Gentleman said is what the House would expect, and that is that there is no censorship wihin the Department of Trade. If the statisticians of the Department wish to draw attention to certain factors and features, I am perfectly happy that they should do so.