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 Robert Cant Mr Robert Cant , Stoke-on-Trent Central 12:00 am, 17th November 1969

I accept that. I do not want to go into any calculations on this rather difficult theme. In any case, my hon. Friend has much more experience of this than I have, and I should like to get him into a good mood because I am going to introduce a concept which always makes his hackles rise, and that is the concept of money supply.

We have to face the fact that although we have got a bit euphoric, if I may coin a verb, during the second quarter of this year because money supply—if I can speak in this old-fashioned term—was down somewhat, we now know that in the third quarter money supply has begun to rise again. The reason I support what the Government are doing is not because of its effect on the import bill, but rather because I feel that the net repayment of this £550 million held by Customs will have an unfortunate inflationary effect, and I am thinking only of the period up to the next election. The inflationary pressures will be very much greater, quantitatively speaking, than the deflationary pressures about which we have heard so much from the the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins). I have a high regard for the hon. Member for Worthing, but if he sticks to economics and economic quantification he impresses me more than when he strays into the realms of political philosophy.

Perhaps I may say something in parenthesis here. The hon. Gentleman almost brought tears to my eyes when he talked about how terrible we were because we were breaching what he called the G.A.T.T.—I read those awful American detective stores in which the "gat" is entirely different from what, I suspect, the hon. Gentleman had in mind—or we were doing something which gave grave offence to our E.F.T.A. colleagues. I have never suggested that the world owes us a living in any sense, but, when we get on this high horse of international political morality, we should do well to look around the world and ask ourselves what other countries do in breach of all the sacred testaments of the G.A.T.T., E.F.T.A. and the rest. When the hon. Gentleman presses that point, he does not make any impression.

Also, when the hon. Gentleman talks about the terrible fate of people engaged in importing, I can only remind him that that sort of thing can happen to anyone at any time. To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the hon. Gentleman's importers who have been so gravely embarrassed by the Government to a constituent of mine who sells hot dogs, I must tell him that the local authority decided to draw two yellow lines along the road and, as a result of that terrible official act, my constituent is out of business. So let us all weep now. Perhaps we can forget that, and close the parenthesis.

I shall now be slightly technical because, as I have said, I feel that the reason why the Chancellor cannot at this moment release £550 million is quite simply that, on balance, the inflationary pressures which are likely to build up will be much greater than the deflationary ones. It is obvious—although one does not know the answer to it—that, on balance the Government will not in the next two quarters commit the heinous crime of increasing liquidity in this country. They may be a heavy borrower at the moment net because they are short of tax revenues, but this will be completely changed in the first quarter of 1970.