HC Deb 30 June 1964 vol 697 cc1123-5
15. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the results of his recent discussions with the chairmen of the nationalised industries on the question of reductions in their capital expenditure.

22. Mr. Ross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent he expects the nationalised industries in Scotland to reduce their capital investment programmes.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

When my right hon. Friend and I saw the chairmen, we explained to them the prospect of a rising pressure of demand on our resources and on the building industry in particular and asked them to see what modifications could be made at the margin of their investment expenditure so that major programmes could continue to go ahead safely and economically. We made no specific requests for particular reductions, and in particular stressed the need to distinguish areas such as Scotland where unemployment is higher than elsewhere.

Mr. Hamilton

Is this part of the stop process which has got out of tune with the electoral timetable? Can the right hon. Gentleman say what specific proposals he has for excluding all the areas where there is currently high unemployment? If those areas are excluded, does that mean that the nationalised industries in other parts of the country will have to cut back more severely than would otherwise have been the case?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the hon. Gentleman will study my Answer, he will see that his supplementary question is founded on the reverse of what I said, which was that it was the purpose of these discussions to avoid the possibility of stop and go by exercising a little reasonable flexibility, as recommended by the Plowden Committee.

As for the second part of his statement; it is common sense, and I think that it is understood by the chairmen, that, for example, it is more sensible at this time to go ahead with projects in areas where resources of labour are available rather than where they are scarce and where there is pressure on the building industry.

Mr. Ross

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever substance there is in the Plan for Central Scotland, it is in the increased public expenditure which is being undertaken there? Is he aware that we were told by the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade that concentration was going on there at the expense of other parts of Scotland? Can we now take it that we are getting a flexible rephasing, which really means a cutting down on the promises of a year ago about public expenditure by the nationalised industries in that area?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

My Answer means the precise opposite of that. There is a later Question about the figures of public expenditure in Scotland.

Mr. Jay

As the White Papers on both the North-East and Scotland last autumn promised that in the so-called growth areas these public investment programmes would go ahead on an expanding scale, can the right hon. Gentleman say categorically that this new decision does not in any way detract from those promises?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the right hon. Gentleman studies the last sentence of my Answer, he will be completely reassured.