HC Deb 11 April 1968 vol 762 cc1578-9
Q1. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has sent to the nine economists who have made representations to him on the cost on current and capital account to public funds of the Transport Bill, the Transport Holding Company Act, and the Industrial Expansion Bill.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have explained that each of these Measures is concerned with the need to secure more economic use of our national resources and that each is a necessary contribution to the overall objective of strengthening and modernising our economy.

Mr. Ridley

Now that the Chancellor has to cover all nationalised industry lending with taxation, would not the Prime Minister agree that these three Measures will add £300 million a year to the taxpayers' bill and taxes will have to go up by that amount next year to cover that?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Member knows, we do not accept that argument, but I dealt in some length with it in my reply to the nine correspondents who wrote to me. Probably it would be better to study the letter, so, if the hon. Member and the House agree, I will place a copy in the Library for hon. Members to study.

Mr. Bidwell

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind the enormous social and economic costs of the present transport anarchy and not be deflected from the main provisions of the Bill?

The Prime Minister

There is no question of deflection from the main principles of the Bill. Among the costs which have to be borne by the community, by the taxpayer and the State as a whole, is the continuing large deficit of British Railways which must be met by some means or other. The Bill is designed to attract more traffic on to the railways.

Mr. Maudling

In his reply did the Prime Minister make clear to these gentlemen the estimate of capital and current costs involved, as he was rather reluctant in his Answer to a Question by me on that point not long ago?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman had better await the letter. I do not set out the specific figures in detail, but deal item by item with the points made in their letter.