HC Deb 08 December 1953 vol 521 cc1793-5
36. Mr. H. Wilson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer at what figure he now estimates the debit balance of current transactions of the United Kingdom for 1951, in view of the successive estimates he has published, namely, £521 million in Command Paper No. 8505, £465 million in Command Paper No. 8666, and £414 million in Command Paper No. 8976, the net figure of overseas investment, borrowing, etc., in view of his previous estimates of £202 million as stated in Command Paper No. 8505, £262 million in Command Paper No. 8666, £325 million in Command Paper No. 8808, and £315 million in Command Paper No. 8976; and the increase in commodity stocks and work in progress, which has been stated at a figure of £370 million in Command Paper No. 8486 and £610 million in the Blue Book on the National Income.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The estimates of the balance of payments in Cmd. 8976 and of stock changes in the Blue Book on "National Income and Expenditure in 1946–52" are the latest available. I would remind the right hon. Member that the current balance for 1947 was altered for one better by £130 million between its first and last publication under the late Administration, in Cmd. 7324 and 8201, respectively.

Mr. Wilson

Whilst the right hon. Gentleman has gone back several years to excuse these very different figures which have been published recently, will he not recognise that the figures originally published in respect of the rather vital year 1951 have been the basis of a great deal of uninformed propaganda? In the light of the latest figures, which show a very different state of affairs, will he not recognise that in 1951 the significant fact was a real increase in the stocks in this country and a very serious flight of capital of which we did not have the figures at the time?

Mr. Butler

The last part of the question is not quite so certain, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the same difficulties occurred by using the very latest figures in the time of the late Administration. For example, a considerable sum has to be attributed to parcel post, which was not included, a considerable sum to invisibles and a sum attributed to stocks. Therefore, while the Government of the day, including this Government, try to give the latest figures available, it is not always possible to avoid a difference between the older publication and the one just published, for the reasons I have broadly given.

Mr. J. T. Price

Will the right hon. Gentleman send these figures to the Conservative Central Office so that their propaganda might bear a closer relationship to the facts of the situation?

Mr. Butler

The Conservative Central Office wisely follows everything I say. That is why the cause of the Government has flourished so much as seen at Paddington and elsewhere.