asked the Secretary of State for Trade (1) if he will confirm that not all the imports recorded in his Depart- ment's publication Overseas Trade Statistics as coming from other EEC countries necessarily originated in those countries;(2) what was the United Kingdom's trade deficit with the rest of the EEC in 1972, 1973 and 1974, including in the figures of exports and imports only those goods whose country of origin or manufacture was within the EEC.
As Note 18 of the Overseas Trade Statistics of the United Kingdom explains, particulars of imports are given according to the country from which the goods are consigned; this is the country from which the goods were originally dispatched to the United Kingdom with or without breaking bulk in the course of transport, but without any commercial transaction in any intermediate country. The country from which goods are consigned is not necessarily the country in which goods originated or were manufactured. Where the country of consignment differs from the country of origin the activity in the country of consignment—which may involve some further processing—must involve a commercial transaction—i.e., the ownership of the goods must change from a firm in the country of origin to a firm in the country of consignment before being shipped to the United Kingdom.According to the customs tariff, where goods are not wholly produced in one country or not accompanied by a certificate of origin, then the country of origin is taken to be that in which the final substantial processing or working took place. resulting in the manufacture of a new product or representing an important stage in its manufacture.On a country of origin basis—i.e., classifying imports according to country of origin and exports according to country of destination—the United Kingdom's crude trade deficit with the EEC(8) in 1974 was £1,431 million. Since figures on this basis have only been compiled since January 1974 the figures requested for 1972 and 1973 are not available. The crude deficit measured on this basis will not include imports into the United Kingdom which have been consigned from the EEC but which have originated elsewhere, for which there has been some processing or working in the EEC which falls short of being substantial as indicated above.
The published United Kingdom import statistics are compiled upon a country of consignment basis for a number of reasons, one being that they are the most practicable approximation to what is required for balance of payments purposes.