asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that whereas the gold and dollar holdings of countries outside the United States of America have gone up by one fifth since 1937 the imports of those countries have increased two and a half times above the pre-war rate; and what steps he proposes to take to overcome this.
I am aware that there has been a much greater increase in the imports of the countries referred to than in their gold and dollar holdings. The last part of the right hon. Gentleman's Question raises wide questions which can hardly be dealt with in a Parliamentary answer. It is, however, the policy of Her Majesty's Government, in co-operation with the rest of the Commonwealth and with other countries, to advocate whatever steps may be practicable from time to time towards securing a better balance of payments between the dollar and the non-dollar areas.
That really is not the point of my Question. Does not the Minister understand that what I am saying in the Question is that the cushion upon which the balance of trade is centred is entirely inadequate? It is like an empty palliasse. That being so, cannot he take some steps to approach the United States, so as to get a revaluation of gold in terms of dollars, which would go a long way towards putting the matter right?
Doubtless, not very well; but, as I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman, the cost of gold depends not only upon the seller but upon the buyer. As regards his Question today, I think that if the House will look at the terms of it, they will see that it covers every possible act of policy by every country in the world which might affect the balance of payments, and obviously I cannot answer that.
That question has been discussed a number of times and I would not like to make any statement upon that subject at this moment. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there are quite a number of effects from any change in the price of gold, some good and some bad.
Arising out of the Minister's last answer to me, may I ask him whether he does not recognise that he cannot shelter behind the fact that a great number of other nations besides ourselves are concerned? Does not he recognise that it is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government to take the lead in this matter and not to wait for other people?
I was not sheltering behind other countries. I was pointing out that the right hon. Gentleman had asked a Question which covered every possible act of policy by every country in the world affecting the balance of payments.