HC Deb 27 February 1968 vol 759 cc1205-7
10. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish the main particulars of the Government's economic forecasts to the end of 1969 before he makes his Budget statement.

34. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make public the statistical content of the economic forecast on which he will be basing the Budget.

52. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has yet reached a decision on the possibility of publishing the short-term economic forecasts to the end of 1969 of his Department before the Budget.

58. Mr. Higgins

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will undertake to publish the short run forecasts of the United Kingdom economy on which his Budget will be based.

62. Mr. Grant

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has now decided whether to publish as White Papers in advance of Budget Day the full official pre-Budget forecasts of national income and expenditure, and to publish on Budget Day itself the revised official forecasts taking account of the estimated effects of Budget measures.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I am still considering whether, and if so when and how, to publish these forecasts.

Mr. Campbell

Is the Chancellor aware that consideration of his Budget proposals is likely to be more fruitful if he will also publish the Government's short-term assumptions, whether or not they later prove to be accurate?

Mr. Jenkins

As I indicated, both in answer to a Questiton five weeks ago and today, I am considering the matter. It is a fairly serious matter, and I must point out that no previous Chancellor on either side has published such a forecast.

Mr. Sheldon

Whilst I appreciate the increase in information which my right hon. Friend is making generally available, may I ask him whether he would accept that the information can be of value not only in improving general understanding of our economic problems, but also, perhaps, improving the forecasts themselves?

Mr. Jenkins

I shall take that point into account. I am not exactly sure that I follow the logic of the last half of my hon. Friend's question. Like everyone else, I should like to see the accuracy of all forecasts improved. It is important that the House should realise, as I am sure that it does, that there is no magic in forecasts and no certainty that the results will be what is forecast.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As the right hon. Gentleman has never been Chancellor before, why not make a new departure? Since the I.M.F. directors have presumably seen the forecasts, should not the British people, who have a prior right, also see them?

Mr. Jenkins

I am all in favour of making new departures provided I think that they are in sensible directions, and I am considering the matter. The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question probably arises more on a later Question.

Mr. Higgins

Is the Chancellor aware that the United States and many European Governments publish official forecasts and that the effect has been very beneficial, whereas the Government did not do so last year, and the effect was horribly disastrous?

Mr. Jenkins

I could think of some other years in which Governments did not publish the forecasts and in which the results might well have been described as disastrous.

Mr. Cronin

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that his Department is more selective and perhaps a little more intelligent in the manner and timing of its publications on economic affairs? Is he aware that the way in which the Vote on Account was published last week caused considerable embarrassment to sterling as well as providing material for a somewhat foolish speech by the Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. Jenkins

I am not responsible for what use the Leader of the Opposition chooses to make of matters in making foolish speeches. It was not the publication of the Vote on Account, which followed a long-established pattern, but the interpretation which some people chose to put on it. I think falsely, which caused the difficulty.