So-called invisible earnings cover a wide range of activities, and form a valuable contribution to our balance of payments. Government policy is continually directed to securing the best possible return from them.
In view of the fact that 35 per cent. of these earnings come under this category, would the right hon. Gentleman consider other ways of giving tax incentives to the industries concerned, and will he see that they have representation on the various dollar-export councils?
Yes, Sir. I will look into this.
Export rebates are valuable in many fields, but there is a difficulty about extending them to service industries for reasons which I am sure are apparent to the hon. Gentleman. But invisibles provide an important part of our earnings and I will certainly do all I can. If the hon. Member has particular suggestions about particular services, I should be glad to consider them.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed the contrast between the deficit on invisible earnings of £20 million in the privately-owned shipping industry and the contribution made by the largely publicly-owned civil aviation industry of a surplus of £25 million?
Yes, Sir. It is noticeable that the earnings of shipping have gone down. To some extent this is due to the level of world trade. An improvement in world trade will bring an increase in the level of shipping earnings as soon as it starts to pick up.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the problems of the shipping industry, which are considerable, particularly with regard to capital? Will he do his best to restore the balance of £100 million a year which we used to have and which has now dwindled to nothing?
This is a problem which has afflicted many Governments for many years. The growth in nationalism in shipping is bound to militate against the earnings which we enjoyed from the shipping services before the First World War.
I have carefully considered the hon. Lady's suggestion which, as I think she knows, would require legislation; but there are great practical difficulties in the way of accepting it.
Is not the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that ship-repairing for foreign owners has always been regarded as an export? When the ship repairers' representatives went to see the Treasury officials, they were given a friendly reception and were of the opinion that after an examination their invisible exports would be treated in the same way as the exports of people regarded as exporters. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman do better than appears from his Answer to be the case?
We always try to give people a friendly reception at the Treasury. Ship-repairing could not be considered in isolation from other forms of invisible exports. As I have said, there are difficulties about applying the scheme to invisible exports and I think that we must wait to see how the scheme works out in practice for a period before we consider how we can extend it.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the worldwide reputation of this country for ship-repairing, and will he keep in touch with the Shipbuilding Conference to see whether something can be done about this matter?