HC Deb 17 June 1953 vol 516 cc970-1
46. Mr. Harold Davies

asked the Prime Minister if he will present the House with a White Paper outlining Her Majesty's Government's policy to meet the economic repercussions of a slowing down of the tempo of armaments production.

The Prime Minister

There is no evidence that adjustments in the United Kingdom Defence Production Programme are having any such economic consequences as would justify the issue of a White Paper. Actual defence expenditure, including production expenditure, has not been reduced. The estimate for production and research in 1953–54 is £746 million against £652 million in 1952–53. The economic policy of the Government has of course been fully debated on the Budget.

Mr. Davies

While thanking the Prime Minister for that answer, and admitting that, maybe, defence expenditure has not at present dropped quite so much, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that it would be a very precarious economic position if the country only depended upon exports from the armament industry? Also, is he aware that the Oil and Materials Secretariat has said that there is an unlimited market for oil equipment in Asia, and that we are proud of the progress of that industry and also the petro-chemical industry? Will he press at the Bermuda Conference for freedom on the trade routes and in the markets of Asia and Eastern Europe?

The Prime Minister

I shall be able to consider the supplementary question better when I have had the advantage of reading it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Lee

Has the Prime Minister seen the report of the speech made by Mr. Holt, the Australian Minister of Labour, at Geneva yesterday in which he said there was no international realism in this matter and that the end of the war in Korea could be the start of a depression on a world-wide scale? Will the Government begin to plan now for a change in our production in order to give our engineering industry an opportunity to readjust itself?

The Prime Minister

I have not had the advantage of reading the statement referred to.