HC Deb 01 April 1969 vol 781 cc222-3
30. Mr. Maurice Macmillan

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the size of the net Government account overseas for the year 1969.

Mr. Harold Lever

I should not like to give an exact estimate, but the level of expenditure will be somewhat higher than the average level in the years 1963 to 1967, as given in the Answer by my right hon. Friend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 4th March to the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale). This is because of increases in payments for U.S. military aircraft, in our contribution to the International Development Association, and in interest payments on external debt.—[Vol. 779, c. 205.]

Mr. Macmillan

Could not the Financial Secretary be a little more precise than that? Does he not realise that this item is a very large proportion of the net invisible account and that over the years 1960 to 1967 the net Government account overseas produced a net deficit amounting to 70 per cent. of the total net surplus in the private sector? Could he not be more precise and perhaps give estimates or forecasts from time to time?

Mr. Lever

I know that I should provide a great deal of amusement by providing forecasts, but I do not think much else would be usefully done by offering them.

Mr. Sheldon

Is not my hon. Friend aware that this is a figure which has been criticised time and time again as well out of line with what we can afford and that we have been promised reductions arising from certain actions taken by the Government—and that those reductions have not been forthcoming?

Mr. Lever

The Question did not relate to the substance of the expenditure but to the method of presenting it to the public at large.