HC Deb 24 March 1964 vol 692 cc241-3
Q3. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Patronage Secretary at Bristol on 21st February about economic matters represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Wyatt

Does not the Prime Minister think that it would be better to stop the Chief Whip making rather peculiar speeches in which he blames the economic misfortunes which he foresees for the country on the Labour Party and address himself to the real problem of the Government, which is the ever-increasing adverse balance of payments? Will the Prime Minister say now whether it is the case or not that since he took office our balance of payments has been running at a rate of surplus of £300 million to £400 million a year which we must have in order to meet all our overseas expenditure? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer that question and not dodge it as he usually does?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member has been reading a lot of the Government's speeches lately. It is very good for him. I gave the hon. Member what turned out to be very good advice last week about the trade figures. I will ask him again to await the balance of payments figures on 1st April. When he takes the last quarter of the year he knows, of course, that this does not really reflect the underlying position, because it is during the last quarter that the annual American loan service payments are concentrated in December and amount to £67 million.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the Prime Minister aware that, of course, the loan service payments are not included in the current balance of payment figures? Would the right hon. Gentleman, to whom we listened with such respect last week when we were told that we were going to get good trade figures, tell us in how many months is in 1962–63 the monthly trade gap was worse than even the improved figures for February, 1964?

The Prime Minister

Not without notice.

Mr. Wilson

Since the right hon. Gentleman likes making speeches without the facts, would it help him if he were told that in 1962–63—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—I am asking if it would help him, I do not know whether it would help him or not. Would it help the right hon. Gentleman to know? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]

Mr. G. Brown

Nothing will help the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Wilson

I am asking the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware—if that will help—that the only month in 1962–63 when the visible trade gap on the traditional basis was £68 million was in December, 1963, which is exactly the same figure as his much vaunted February figure for 1964. Would the right hon. Gentleman recognise that in the two crisis years of 1957 and 1961—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

There is too much noise for us to make progress—[Interruption.]—and I would point out that progress is not assisted if the noise is renewed.

Mr. Wilson

To finish the proceedings, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that in 1957 and 1961, the two years of 7 per cent. Bank Rate, the trade figures were better than they were in February, 1964?

The Prime Minister

I must clearly answer the right hon. Gentleman's speech very shortly. I advise every hon. Member to wait for the April figures. We have long ago said that the underlying trade position is sound and if we are going to have another period of expansion, to which we are confidently looking forward, with industry stocking up as it is now, there will be some effect on the balance of payments. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that in his last Budget.