HC Deb 02 April 1968 vol 762 cc164-5
28. Mr. Biffen

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer by what amount he expects to increase the money supply during the financial year 1968–69.

Mr. Harold Lever

The growth of the money supply is not determined by Government action alone; but I expect the increase to be smaller in 1968–69 than in 1967–68.

Mr. Biffen

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is a singularly unhelpful and uncommunicative Answer? Is he further aware that growth in the money supply has far more effect upon the movement of prices and incomes than any prices and incomes legislation can possibly contrive to achieve? Are we to assume that his unwillingness to answer is because the Government are so determined to proceed with legislation that they attach far more importance to it than it really deserves?

Mr. Lever

My unwillingness to answer derives from my unwillingness to take upon myself the mantle of charlatan prophet, since so many of the factors governing money supply are wholly outside the Government's control. Money supply increases and diminishes in relation to trade surplus, to the total amount of non-bank buying of Government bonds, and other things of that sort. Where the Government can exercise control then our policy is clear, but there are a great many factors in this matter which are quite outside our control and which would make it unwise and irresponsible to attempt a prediction.

Sir C. Osborne

In view of that astonishing confession of failure how on earth can the Government plan?

Mr. Lever

It is the kind of confession of failure which, if King Canute had made it, he would have achieved a somewhat better historical reputation than he did.