Orders of the Day — Customs (Import Deposits) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1969.

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Photo of Mr Dick Taverne Mr Dick Taverne , Lincoln 12:00 am, 17th November 1969

I do not think that the hon. Member can divide it up in that way. One has to look at the figures overall. In the first three-quarters of this year there was no appreciable difference between this year and last, and not since 1967. In any event, I would say to the hon. Member that it has not been possible in any way to link the number of bankruptcies that have occurred—and there has not been an unusual number —with the effects of the import deposits scheme.

We were also told last year by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the scheme would disrupt trade, that it would disrupt exports, and that it would prevent any chance of moving into an export boom. I think that the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) made this point. I have the greatest respect for him, but on this occasion his forecast was a little inaccurate, as forecasts tend to be. He told us that it would move production capacity away from exporting into domestic production. In fact, there has been no disruption to trade, and exports have soared. Anxieties were expressed about the administration of the scheme, but many compliments have been paid by all sections of industry to the Customs for the way in which the scheme has been administered, Lnd the 200 staff involved has proved to be less than the number we anticipated.

More importantly, if one looks at the future plans in the all-important fields of manufacturing investment the latest reports suggest that investment here is expanding healthily at a steady underlying annual rate of about 10 per cent. for 1969, with similar prospects for 1970. Of course, if we relaxed credit restraint, for example, if we allowed the present scheme to run down, it might well be that industrial investment would go ahead faster. I concede that, but what would happen then? In all probability, the result would be that the balance of payments would suffer, and we might then find that a sharper burst of investment than at present would in due course be followed by an investment slump. We would be far better off with a steady and sustained rate of investment based on a balance of payments surplus than with sharp ups and downs as we have experienced in the past.