HC Deb 03 December 1964 vol 703 cc731-3
19. Mr. Fisher

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to reach the National Economic Development Council's target of 4 per cent. growth rate per annum.

Mr. George Brown

Our intention is to reach an annual rate of growth of 4 per cent. as soon as possible and this will be the objective of the Government's new plan. But the economy is not growing at 4 per cent. at present.

Mr. Fisher

Is it not true that the Labour Party's election target for the growth rate apparently exceeded our own 4 per cent. target and has had to be corrected? Is it not also the case that it was supposed to cover the social policy programme of the party opposite without increased taxation? Why then, within a month of the election, has the Chancellor of the Exchequer imposed a rise in standard rate, in petrol tax and in insurance contributions—exactly as was predicted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling)?

Mr. Brown

Not for the first time, the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) has got the thing exactly the wrong way round. The fact is, as we have discovered, that the target of the previous Administration far exceeded their performance and that the promises of the previous Administration far exceeded both their target and performance.

Mr. Duffy

Can my right hon. Friend confirm the current reports that the rate of economic growth in the last nine months of the late Government was running at only half of the target?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman can only be asked to confirm reports for which he is responsible, otherwise the Question is out of order.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Will the right hon. Gentleman define more exactly the words "as soon as possible"? When is it to be?

Mr. Brown

As soon as we can get there—and that is a very great deal quicker than the previous Administration.

Mr. William Clark

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the N.E.D.C. will work better now that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not a member?

Mr. Brown

If the hon. Gentleman takes steps to discover what happened yesterday, he will find that all members of the N.E.D.C. felt that we are moving forward very well indeed.

Mr. W. Baxter

What organisations does my right hon. Friend seek to establish in order to get the markets that a 4 per cent. growth rate will justify? Unless we get markets for our goods, irrespective of how much we produce, a 4 per cent. growth rate will not help all that much.

Mr. Brown

That aspect has been very much one of our major preoccupations in the last seven weeks and we are very busy establishing arrangements to get the export markets which, unhappily, our predecessors failed to do.

Mr. du Cann

Are we now to assume that the Labour Government have abandoned the programme for growth which they recklessly promised the electorate in the last few months?

Mr. Brown

Not only is the right hon. Gentleman not to assume that but he might also consider whether it would not fit the party opposite's past failure to start giving some help instead of just "knocking".

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