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Invisible Exports

Volume 115: debated on Wednesday 29 April 1987

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the level of the United Kingdom's trade in invisible exports.

The net earnings of the United Kingdom from all forms of invisible transactions amounted to £7·2 billion last year. It is likely that earnings continued at broadly the same rate, £600 million a month, in the first quarter of 1987, and further growth is expected during the rest of this year.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is it not true that a large proportion of that sum is due to overseas investment earnings? If so, do not those huge figures give the lie to the allegation that North sea oil revenues are being squandered?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The balance of earnings on overseas investments rose by well over £1 billion last year. The great advantage of overseas investment income is that it allows the United Kingdom to participate in world expansion trends and offers a useful hedge against foreign currency fluctuations.

Will my hon. Friend continue to hold urgent discussions with my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General so that any barriers to trade, particularly in the important industry of tourism, are removed? Clearly, a number of companies are holding back from investing in this country because they note that the Labour party continues to attack tourism as jobs for ice cream salesmen and Mickey Mouse jobs. Will my hon. Friend confirm that there is nothing remotely true in that, and that tourism is the fastest growth industry in Britain?

I have constant consultations with my hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General. Alas, my hon. Friend's point is all too true. The Labour party continually regards invisible earnings as some kind of immoral earnings, to which any kind of reference is somehow demeaning.