HC Deb 07 May 1968 vol 764 cc208-10
Q3. Mr. Walters

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Lord President of the Council at Basildon on Friday, 29th March about economic policy represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

I have already dealt at length with this Question but at the risk of further wearying the House, I will answer it again. "Yes, Sir".

Mr. Walters

Does the Prime Minister recall that his right hon. Friend first said that the Government had lost the confidence of the country and then that they could operate their economic policy successfully only if they had the confidence of the country? Has the Prime Minister any evidence that the Government are regaining this confidence? Does he realise that if he has he is unique?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend's speech, which is available in full to right hon. and hon. Members, made it clear, as is clear to all of us, that when these extremely unpopular decisions have to be taken to get the economy right, that inevitably leads to electoral unpopularity. What we need, and what any Government need, is the support of the country in carrying through measures which are widely recognised as necessary, including the one to which my right hon. Friend drew attention in his speech—the prices and incomes policy.

Mr. Maudling

Does the Prime Minister accept his right hon. Friend's view that a General Election now would settle nothing except the fate of the Labour Party? Can he think of a better way of restoring the economy?

The Prime Minister

I am always willing to receive advice on this question, but not from a former member of a Government which, for the first time in a hundred years, despite the obvious unpopularity of that Government only six months before, went to the very last minute of statutory time before going to the country, and against the advice of the right hon. Gentleman himself who knew what the economic situation was.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a General Election now would certainly cause considerable unsettlement and disturbance on the Opposition Front Bench?

The Prime Minister

There is some evidence of that. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are temporarily luxuriating in public opinion polls, which they normally discount, will have seen that, in the latest public opinion poll, the declared view of the country was that, as between the Conservative Party led by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the Labour Party led by myself, we have a two point advantage.

Sir G. Nabarro

Talking of last minutes, will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why he is deferring month after month, evidently until next autumn—the last minute—the holding of by-elections in four seats vacated by Labour Members?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The time lag in these cases is considerably less than some of the more historic occasions when his party was in power.

Mr. Murray

In view of the time wasted by this sort of Question, may I suggest that my right hon. Friend asks members of the Government to state, before they made speeches, that they are stating the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister

That raises some extremely interesting questions of a constitutional character which I should like to consider. I do not think it would necessarily rule out the Questions. I agree that repetitive Questions are a waste of the time of the House, but I am not sure that all the supplementary questions are.

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