HC Deb 01 April 1958 vol 585 cc1019-20
45. Sir R. Boothby

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take steps to convene an economic conference of Commonwealth and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries to consider the problems arising out of the prevailing recession, and the shortage of international exchange reserves.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I said in a speech last evening that if peace is indivisible, so is prosperity. I am, therefore, in sympathy with the purpose my hon. Friend has in mind. Existing international organisations provide ample opportunity for dealing with these problems and whether new machinery is needed is a matter for consideration.

Sir R. Boothby

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he agrees that it is clear that the Russians are relying to an increasing extent upon economic weapons as a means of extending Soviet power; and, in these circumstances, before taking them on at a Summit Conference, would not it be desirable at any rate to have a shot at getting a greater measure of agreement between the Western Powers than exists at present about how to tackle the economic problems which are besetting the free world?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. As I have said, I have great sympathy for that, and indeed I expressed the same view, but whether to use the existing machinery or to find a new one is a matter to which I should like to give further consideration.

Mr. H. Wilson

But if the Prime Minister has sympathy with this proposal, why was it that when this precise proposal was put forward last October from the Opposition benches during the debate on the economic situation, when the situation was already becoming serious and when it was possible to forecast all that has since happened, the President of the Board of Trade was allowed to turn it down flat?

The Prime Minister

I expect the way in which it was put was not attractive.

Mr. Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman refer to HANSARD, when he will find that it was put in this way, with the addition only that there should be discussions on the problem of the slump in commodity prices, which is one of the most aggravating features of the present situation?

The Prime Minister

That is an important question.

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