asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the balance of trade in manufactures in value terms in October excluding the erratic items; and whether he expects the United Kingdom to become a net importer of manufactured goods in the lifetime of the present Administration.
The crude balance of trade in manufactures less erratics in October 1979 showed a deficit of £97m. Trade in October was adversely affected by the engineering dispute and the figure exaggerates the underlying position. Even then, the crude balance is not an appropriate measure due to the different valuation of imports and exports, but balance of payments based data are not available on a monthly basis.Care needs to be exercised in interpreting figures for a single month; on an annual basis, which provides a more reasonable time scale, the United Kingdom remains in large surplus in this trade. With respect to the last part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to my answer on 19 November.