HC Deb 01 November 1966 vol 735 cc241-3
Q4. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has for more national or regional conferences on productivity, in view of the success of the one held a short while ago; and whether he will consider placing in the Library an abbreviated version of the proceedings of such conferences.

The Prime Minister

The National Economic Development Council are re- viewing progress and will be advising me about reconvening next year the Conference which was held in September. A short paper on the proceedings of the Conference is now being prepared and I will arrange for a copy to be placed in the Library.

Mr. Hamilton

In view of the undoubted success of the first conference in September, will my right hon. Friend reconsider his decision to make this an annual event? Will he seek to have them more often and perhaps have some on a regional basis rather than having them all centred on London? Further, will he take steps to see that a much more extensive resumé of what took place in September is placed in the Library, so that hon. Members may have access to information which is vital to us all?

The Prime Minister

There was a general view at the conference that it should be reconvened in three or four months, early next year, and that N.E.D.C. should be given the task of preparing the arrangements for this. It has also been asked to consider what follow-up action is required both with individual industries and on a regional basis, possibly even going to a sub-regional basis, to individual towns and cities. On the question of the dissemination of material, as my hon. Friend knows, we published all the texts of the very valuable papers which were prepared by N.E.D.C. for this conference.

Sir G. Nabarro

Rather than proliferate the national productivity councils when will the Prime Minister get down to grass roots and do something to prevent the further wilting and sagging of the "Little Neddies" which are sinking into the morass of bureaucratic detail?

The Prime Minister

I cannot compete with the hon. Gentleman in the words he uses. Everyone who attended the conference thought that it was an extremely valuable innovation, contrary to the hon. Gentleman's views, and that it provided a basis for follow-up action, particularly by the E.D.Cs., which will strengthen their powers and studies.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the greatest obstacles to increasing productivity in the future is the decline in private investment which is now taking place, and which will take place even more rapidly, as is shown by the forecasts? As the Board of Trade Journal says in commenting on this, one of the major factors is loss of confidence. What does the Prime Minister propose to do to see that there is an increase once again in private investment?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt have seen the announcement by the Bank of England this morning, after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, about the provision of more finance in respect of investment. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary will be discussing very thoroughly later this week the proposals of the C.B.I. following our productivity conference, when this matter was raised.