HC Deb 23 March 1967 vol 743 cc1896-8
19. Mr. Lubbock

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he now expects to produce a revised version of the National Plan for the next five years.

Mr. M. Stewart

I have nothing to add to the reply my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) on 23rd February.—[Vol. 741, c. 327.]

Mr. Lubbock

Is it the right hon. Gentleman's intention this winter to have another industrial inquiry similar to the one that was undertaken before the last National Plan? If that is carried out, will he not give industry a fixed target growth rate and seek to develop economic formulæ similar to those which have been introduced by the Central Electricity Generating Board to produce estimates of future electricity demand so that the plans of industry can be adjusted to what the actual growth rate is and not the projection?

Mr. Stewart

Preliminary studies of likely trends in the economy are being carried out and I hope shortly to be able to provide the House with some account of the considerations that arise and the way in which we are approaching the problem, and then to deal with the point which the hon. Member has just raised. Some form of inquiry certainly will be necessary, and we propose to establish, in consultation with industry, how that can best be done.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that regional development and planning, as they are outlined in the National Plan, are not working satisfactorily in Scotland? Will my right hon. Friend take that fact into account and see whether these two proposals can be activated more obviously?

Mr. Stewart

Nobody would dispute that Scotland has its problems, but if my hon. Friend will look at the movement of unemployment figures in Scotland and in the United Kingdom as a whole in recent months, he will see that it would be quite wrong to say that regional policies have not brought any benefit to Scotland.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does not experience with the last National Plans show that it is quite hopeless to seek to produce such a document unless and until the Government have got a clear and reliable idea of what the rate of economic growth is going to be?

Mr. Stewart

I mentioned that studies are going on about this, and I hope before long to be able to tell the House a little more about it.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Is not the National Plan now dead and done with? How can a corpse be revived?

Mr. Stewart

When the hon. Member says things like that, he only shows how completely out of touch he is with both sides of industry today.