HC Deb 11 May 1967 vol 746 cc1695-8
Q5. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the economic situation at Dunoon on 20th April represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does the Prime Minister agree that the Chancellor's claim that the Government have reverted to stop-go is somewhat inaccurate? As the Chancellor pointed out that under the Labour Government the increment in the G.N.P. declined by 50 per cent. each year, would it not be fairer to describe it as a policy of full speed astern?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman is well aware of the measures that had to be taken to get the country into balance of payments surplus. If he studies the record of his own Government over 13 years he will find some very bad periods, even after they had been in office for 10 or 11 years.

Mr. Barber

Is the Prime Minister aware that even if the new target of 3 per cent. growth is achieved, which is by no means likely, on the Chancellor's own figures in that speech at Dunoon the overall annual rate of growth in the six years covered by the National Plan will be only just over 2½ per cent.?

The Prime Minister

As I have made clear, for the first 2½ years of these we have had to clear up the £800 million deficit the right hon. Gentlemen left. I know that the right hon. Member would like to forget about it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Alibi."] The alibi was created by those who left us with the deficit. One big difference in our case is that we did not slash the social services as they did whenever they got into difficulty.

Mr. Maxwell

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that although growth is very desirable the country is right behind him—[Interruption]—and the Government in their determination to repay our borrowing? [Interruption]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Recess is not until Saturday.

The Prime Minister

I was not able to hear every word of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, but in the past three days we have been discussing some of the actions which might add to the rate of growth this country could achieve unaided. Certainly I am well aware that the bulk of the country will support measures to put the country on its feet again economically, even if we are carrying some of the unpopularity for the measures necessary because of the deficit.

Mr. Barber rose


Mr. Manuel

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You appealed earlier in our proceedings for fair shares at Question Time. This is the right hon. Gentleman's second supplementary on this Question, and I do not think that that is fair shares.

Mr. Speaker

I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Barber

I only wanted to ask t he Prime Minister whether he realised that inadvertently he had not answered my question. I asked a straight question, whether he agreed that, on the Chancellor's own figures in the speech about which he is being asked, for the six years covered by the National Plan the growth rate will be only just over 2½ per cent.?

The Prime Minister

Obviously, if it is 3 per cent. for four years and less than 3 per cent for two, the average for six must be less than 3 per cent. I have explained that the 2½ years were spent getting the economy right because of the mess in which it was left by right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. Heath

As the situation is now as the Prime Minister has described it, can he now tell us how his programmes, which he himself has said are based on a growth rate of 4 per cent., will now be met?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. We have every confidence that the programmes will be met on the basis of the 3 per cent. or more which can be achieved over the next four years. The right hon. Gentleman should not calculate on their last four years until the election boom that caused the economic crisis, but on what their record was over 13 years.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am very glad to note that the marriage of convenience consummated last night is now breaking down?