HC Deb 01 December 1966 vol 737 cc589-91
1. Sir C. Osborne

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs how many civil servants and businessmen were employed in producing the National Plan; since the National Plan was based on the assumption of 200,000 more jobs being available than men to fill them, and there are now over 500,000 unemployed, if he will give an assurance that future planning will take full account of the economic situation of the country, in order to avoid further waste of public money; and if he will make a statement.

The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

It is not practicable to give any estimate of the numbers concerned. The figure of 200,000 was an estimate of the manpower gap in 1970 resulting from the implementation of the Plan, not an assumption used in formulating it.

Sir C. Osborne

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that events have made a complete mockery of this Plan? Will he see that public money is not wasted in this way in future, please?

Mr. Stewart

It is by no means the general view in industry that this is a waste. It is not true, either, to say that events have made a mockery of it. In conditions of restored growth, we shall still have to face the problem of manpower shortage, to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Anderson

Does my right hon. Friend realise that many of us are sick and tired of the continued knocking at the Plan and at the concept of planning by hon. Members opposite? Will he ensure that as soon as practicable the Plan is revised?

Mr. Stewart

I gave an answer to that question about three weeks ago. We are going on with that.

11. Mr. Higgins

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he will provide input-output tables which show the relationship between the various industries covered by the National Plan and reconcile the figures given for each industry.

Mr. M. Stewart

As the projections in the 1965 National Plan are no longer considered practicable for 1970, it has been decided not to publish the input/output tables based on them.

Mr. Higgins

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there is much to be learned from carrying out a post-mortem on the body of the National Plan? Since these tables were promised to the House almost a year ago by his predecessor, why are we not to know what the internal structure of the Plan, failure as it is, was?

Mr. Stewart

One of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends at the beginning of Question Time was complaining about the amount of time spent by civil servants in preparing the Plan at all. It would not be sensible to proceed with this exercise. We are examining what is more to the point, the revision of the Plan.

Mr. Longden

Is it true that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, now Foreign Secretary, when he wrote the Plan, was rather like Browning when he wrote his poem, in that only he and God knew what it meant and now only God knows?

Mr. Stewart

It would be a foolish man who said that Browning's poems were useless.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Does the First Secretary remember that his predecessor, speaking of the National Plan, said that the figures and the timescale would have to be rewritten but that the Plan would still be useful as a checklist? What does that mean?

Mr. Stewart

It means that the Plan contains what is called a "checklist for action", that is, a list of items of policy with which it was particularly important to proceed. That part of the Plan is certainly of great and permanent value.

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