HC Deb 02 July 1968 vol 767 cc1299-301
Q2. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the light of the last quarter's balance of payments, he will now report progress on devaluation in another television broadcast to the nation.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answers I gave to similar Questions on 5th March and 25th April, 1968.—[Vol. 760, c. 222–3; Vol. 763, c. 475–77.]

Mr. Marten

Since then much time has passed. In the present situation, with the balance of payments as it is, overseas debt mounting up, the unemployment trend, and two Cabinet resignations since devaluation, does not the nation in its anxiety deserve a massive explanation from the right hon. Gentleman on television?

The Prime Minister

I am not getting help from the hon. Gentleman who is so misleading in his presentation of facts and figures. I remind him that industrial production this April was five points higher than in April last year, that productivity is 5½ per cent. higher, and that our exports are up 15 per cent. by value and 7 per cent. by volume over the middle period of last year, representing an annual rate of 10 per cent. compared. with the average over the last ten years of a 3 per cent. increase.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Will my right hon. Friend take serious note of the point of view of hon. Members on this side who recognise that July is a sticky month in more ways than one—including Sunday's resignation? Will he accept that there would be tremendous support for him if he gave a state of the nation broadcast, because he still has many friends— [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Briefly, please.

Mr. Brown

I repeat that the Prime Minister still has many friends inside and outside this House. The country deserves an explanation of what is going on.

The Prime Minister

I think that at the proper time that will be appropriate.

Mr. Maudling

In the light of the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman, can he say whether the rise in prices since devaluation is yet enough to carry out the Government's policy of restraining demand, especially imports?

The Prime Minister

The full effects of the Budget on restraining demand have not yet been felt. The latest figures for retail sales were published this morning. The House was given the figures for prices yesterday. They include the effects of the Budget, which it was known would have an effect on price levels. However, there is some evidence that food prices this year have not risen as much as many of us, including myself, would have expected at the time of devaluation.

Mr. Murray

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Conservative Party are willing to go to any lengths to discredit the Government, even if it means doing serious and permanent damage to the economy? I am sure that the public would welcome a broadcast on television giving some of the true facts to the nation.

The Prime Minister

It is probably more important that we should all concentrate on the measures which we have been taking, including the very important measures for strengthening Britain's industry, from which we are now getting new and spectacular evidence almost every week, not only in export orders but in other ways, showing the greater robust strength of British industries that were far too long neglected.

Mr. Peyton

Would not such a broadcast afford a melancholy example of the unpopular explaining the unacceptable to the unbelieving?