HC Deb 11 April 1967 vol 744 cc970-1
Q7. Sir C. Taylor

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech made by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs at a luncheon, about the size of British assets overseas in New South Wales, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend's speech was concerned with facts rather than policies, but it certainly reflected the views of Her Majesty's Government.

Sir C. Taylor

Was not the Secretary of State's speech very misleading in that he quoted figures of overseas assets of the United Kingdom of £16,000 million—incidentally, mostly built up by private enterprise—but neglected to mention the fact that there were nearly £14,000 million liabilities?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend did not say anything so misleading. He said: Britain's overseas assets total nearly 40,000 million dollars and gross assets exceed gross liabilities by more than 5,000 million dollars. If the hon. Gentleman will do the simple process of subtracting and dividing by 2.8, he will find that this gives the same figure as he has reached himself in sterling.

Mr. Doughty

Although I am not an Australian—contrary to what The Times said last week—may I ask the Prime Minister whether he realises the importance of investing money in all the States of Australia, which are going ahead so fast?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry that The Times made that mistake about the hon. and learned Gentleman. Some of us are quite used to it. We certainly agree, within the limits available for overseas investment, about the importance of investment in Australia. I, too, am not an Australian, but I do know the West of Australia. I agree that it is important to spread investment over the whole country, not least in the growth areas.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The Prime Minister forgot, when making his calculations, that the 2.8 figure is not meaningful because the Secretary of State was referring to Australian and not American dollars.

The Prime Minister

I will check the figures. If the right hon. Gentleman is right about that, I must certainly bow to him about it.