HC Deb 11 July 1968 vol 768 cc705-6
1. Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what progress has been made in closing the manpower gap identified in the National Plan.

The Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Alan Williams)

The manpower gap was a function of the overall calculations of the National Plan, a number of assumptions of which have now ceased to be applicable. The development of industrial training in recent years should do much to prevent shortages of skilled manpower inhibiting economic growth in the future.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Even ignoring events subsequent to the plan, could the Under-Secretary confirm or deny the report in a responsible Press article that the original gap of 200,000 men in 1970 was a purely statistical error?

Mr. Williams

No, Mr. Speaker. I cannot confirm that information. I have not seen the report. But the 200,000 arose as a result of a presumption of a 25 per cent. increase in G.D.P. over the period 1964–70.

Mr. Higgins

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the crucial deter- minants are likely to be changes in gross national product and changes in productivity? Surely he must have formulated some view of what the likely out-turn will be compared with the National Plan. Does he expect a bigger or a smaller gap?

Mr. Williams

I know that the hon. Gentleman is awaiting his own contribution to the productivity of the nation, but on the present figures the indication would be that productivity is rising at least at the rate anticipated and possibly at well above it.