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Manufactured Goods (Imports And Exports)

Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what further representations he has received concerning the level of United Kingdom imports and exports of manufactured goods.

Has the right hon. Gentleman read the Bank of International Settlements' annual report, which is openly contemptuous of the Government's monetary policy and which underlines their attitude to the exchange rate of the pound, to the detriment of our exporters and to the advantage of our importers? Will he now change his priorities to make sure that British manufacturing industry is accorded the importance that it deserves?

I would not think of the BIS report as being my choice for bedside reading, and I have not read it. It is not alone in disagreeing with the Government's policies. But, in due course, I am confident that the BIS will realise the wisdom of the Government's policies and will then change its tune.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the damage now being done by barter arrangements, both by individual firms and those imposed by Comecon countries, on orderly marketing and industry-to-industry arrangements?

I would much prefer that trade was conducted by settlement with money rather than by barter. However, if we were to opt out of the barter arrangement, I think that we would lose a great deal of trade. We are particularly well equipped in this country to handle it—probably better equipped to handle barter transactions than almost any other country.

Will the right hon. Gentleman re-examine the plight of the textile industry with regard to its need to export? Will he consider the bitter conclusions of my constituents employed by Courtaulds in Flint—that under the present Government it is becoming easier to import than to export?

I think that everyone in the House is deeply concerned about the present problems of the textile industry. I certainly am concerned. I understand that many of these firms have the most admirable, loyal, hard-working employees. They are very unhappy circumstances that we now face. But I remind the hon. Gentleman that the textile industry exports over £2 billion worth of textiles every year. It is a successful industry, although parts of it are at present in great difficulty.