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Volume 932: debated on Thursday 26 May 1977

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the level of invisible exports in the first quarter of 1977; and how that compares with the first quarter of 1976.

First quarter figures are not yet prepared. They will be available on 9th June. In the fourth quarter of last year invisible earnings amounted to £3,742 million. That compares with £2,913 million a year earlier.

Has any estimate been made by the Treasury of the effect on our invisibles if banking and insurance were nationalised, as is desired by certain sections of the Labour Party? At the very least, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that certain individuals abroad, reluctant to deal with the Government or Government agencies, would be almost certain to transfer their invisible exports elsewhere?

The answer to the first part of the question is "No, Sir". The House knows the Government's policy regarding banking and insurance nationalisation. I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that banking makes a very small contribution to our invisible earnings.

As tourism plays such a large part in our invisible earnings, is it not unsatisfactory that Britain should be the only country within the EEC where hotels do not qualify for capital allowances? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that new hotel investment, including a company with which I am connected, is being hampered and, therefore, jobs are not being created because of this anomaly? Will he look at the matter again?

I do not think that the tourist industry is being hampered. In fact, the hotel market in London and in other parts of the country is booming at the moment.