Our trade with South Africa this year has expanded in line with the large general expansion of South Africa's foreign trade. In the first 10 months of 1967 our exports rose by £24 million, or 12½ per cent. over last year, despite the dock strike.
While welcoming the fact that South Africa is now our second best customer, may I ask whether the best way of restoring our balance of payments would not be by supplying to South Africa the arms which she needs and is now getting from other countries? What is the point in having a defence agreement if we default on our moral obligation to supply arms for external martime defence?
Will the right hon. Gentleman take this occasion to express his extreme satisfaction that in this export market British exporters are doing so well? Will he indicate whether or not he thinks that this remarkable increase in trade with South Africa is totally unconnected with the difficulties in Rhodesia?
I think that this increase in trade with South Africa is—I repeat "is"—totally unconnected with the difficulties in Rhodesia. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will examine the share of British exports in South Africa, they will find that this share is substantially the same this year as it has been for many years past. Therefore, the connection that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting simply does not exist.
Will my right hon. Friend take every precaution not to give the impression that the constitution of this country and of the present Government is not the best that money can buy?
Returning to the right hon. Gentleman's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen), surely the logic of the right hon. Gentleman's answer is that exactly the same is happening to everybody else's exports, namely, that they are going through South Africa to Rhodesia. Therefore, the logic of my hon. Friend's Question is quite irrefutable.
No, I do not think the logic is irrefutable. If the hon. Gentleman will examine the figures of the trade of this country and of other countries with South Africa in the last three or four years, he will find that this trade can be explained in terms of the normal fluctuations of world trade that have occurred in that time.