HC Deb 26 November 1964 vol 702 cc1457-60
23. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs who are the members of the National Economic Development Council.

Mr. Crosland

A list of the members of the N.E.D.C. will be circulated with the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Would the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not among the list of members of the National Economic Development Council? If that is so, is not it wrong that the chief economic figure of the country should not be on the Council? Does this mean that there will be no financial control of this very important Council?

Mr. Crosland

I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be a member. The reason is that the Council will be concerned mainly with questions of physical rather than financial policy, but of course co-operation between my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State, who will be Chairman of the Council, is a matter of continuous and perfect harmony.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Mr. William Clark.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. Some hon. Members seem to be anticipating that they will be called. I called Mr. William Clark.

Mr. William Clark

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is rather unusual to have the Chancellor of the Exchequer excluded from such an important body as the N.E.D.C.? How can one have integration and consultation if the Chancellor is excluded from the deliberations of the Council? Would the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to consider this matter again? Is he aware that not only do we on this side of the House think it is disastrous but that people throughout the country are absolutely astounded that the Chancellor is being relegated to the rôle of being merely a bookkeeper?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. I cannot accept what was stated in that supplementary question. It is not true. We considered this very carefully and we decided that as this was a body mainly concerned with the physical side of planning and with the efficiency of particular industries the right chairman of the body was my right hon. Friend the First Secretary and that there was no especial need for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be on this body itself. I must make it clear that if what is worrying the hon. Member is the question of the relation existing inside the Government between the First Secretary and the Chancellor —which is very important —this should not be established primarily in the forum of an outside body. This is primarily a matter of internal government.

Mr. Heath

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is his understanding that N.E.D.C. in future will have no discussions of any kind about matters of incomes policy, for example? Is not he really saying that, as a result of taking the creative organisational part out of N.E.D.C. and putting it into his right hon. Friend's own Department, N.E.D.C. now becomes just another advisory body, in this case an advisory body to the First Secretary of State?

Mr. Crosland

On the question of incomes policy, all the discussions now being conducted on that subject, both with the trade unions and with the employers, are being conducted by a Government team consisting of the First Secretary of State, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour, so that the Chancellor is fully involved in the discussions about prices and incomes policy.

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's second point about the future rôle of N.E.D.C., I do not accept the fears which he implied. What we are taking away from N.E.D.C. is the actual function of making the plan, the actual detailed study of figures and targets for particular sectors of the economy. We are taking away all that and putting it in the Department of Economic Affairs. But the National Economic Development Council's rôle of consultation while the plan is being drawn up, its rôle of helping to implement the plan, and its rôle as a source of ideas for the Government to consider will continue. Its whole advisory rôle in this way will continue as it was before, and, indeed, we hope that it will be very much strengthened as compared with what it used to be.

Mr. Manuel

In order to remove the doubts from the minds of hon. Members opposite, will my hon. Friend tell the House that on this and allied questions we intend to carry out our policy and plans, and not those of the Tory Party?

Following is the list: