HC Deb 20 October 1966 vol 734 cc373-4
3. Mr. Marten

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will set up a standing advisory committee to guide the Government in their economic planning.

Mr. M. Stewart

No, Sir.

Mr. Marten

As the National Plan—which was launched about a year ago as a great advance in economic planning—has now really become a meaningless irrelevance, does not it show that the national planners have failed in their job? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether we are to have another National Plan and, if so, when? Will it be done by the same group of people as produced the last one?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Member is wrong to say that the Plan is a meaningless irrelevance. It was said from the beginning, of course, that difficulties presented by the balance of payments could act as a constraint on what was planned. I accept that that difficulty is inherent in this country's economic situation, but that does not mean that the concept of planning ceases to be relevant and important. As to revision of the Plan, I want first to have consultations with the National Economic Development Council.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Since the Plan said that there would be 200,000 too few people labouring in this country and since there are now 400,000 too many, when will that part be revised?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong to say that there are 400,000 too many. What we have to do at the moment is see that we do not get over-manning of certain industries. We must take the necessary measures to see that people are employed where their efforts will be most effective.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

In view of the grave increase in unemployment in Wales, will the right hon. Gentleman consider creating machinery which will start economic planning in that country?

Mr. Stewart

As I think the hon. Gentleman knows, there are special regional measures which are intended to have and are having an effect in helping regions which may be in particular difficulty.