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After consulting the Government, the Bank of England and the British National Export Council have established a permanent Committee on Invisible Exports. Its task will be to suggest and, where possible, implement measures to encourage invisible earnings in the light of the conclusions and recommendations of the Bland Report. The Government are still considering a number of recommendations in that report which relate to possible action by Government Departments.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that more publicity could usefully be given to the fact that Britain's invisible exports already amount to more than one-third of her total exports? With regard to his remarks about action to be taken by the Government, does not he agree that the most important recommendations, particularly with regard to the Selective Employment Tax, in the Bland Report are matters for Government action?
I wholeheartedly agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said about publicity. The Bland Report has drawn to the attention of people who did not realise it before what a large contribution is made by our invisible exports. Today, the House will have noted that we have made an innovation in our publication of the monthly trade figures by including a reference to invisible exports. The question of the Selective Employment Tax appears to raise rather wider matters.
When listening to recommendations for increasing income from invisible exports, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that a number of these activities in the City increase the sensitivity of this country to pressures on sterling? Will he, jointly with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, set up a cost benefit analysis of the City's activities in this field?
I think that my hon. Friend is getting the matter out of perspective because, if he examines the figures on invisibles given in the Bland Report, he will find that the main contribution comes from sectors which are not relevant to the question he has put. What makes us vulnerable is not, as people often suppose, merely the position of sterling as a reserve currency but the fact that sterling is a major trading currency, and this is something we should not seek to bring to an end without the most careful consideration.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Government should not hide behind a new committee, however admirable, from taking decisions on the straightforward recommendations of the Bland Committee, such as those on the Selective Employment Tax, which are in the Government's power to deal with?
It is not a question of hiding behind a new committee, because it was the Bland Report itself which suggested that this Committee should be appointed. We are thus carrying out one of the Bland Report's major recommendations in setting the Committee up. The question of the Selective Employment Tax is for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it raises all sorts of matters going far beyond the question of invisible exports.