HC Deb 30 April 1969 vol 782 cc1411-2
14. Mr. Hall-Davis

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is his latest estimate of the level of investment by manufacturing industry in 1969 and 1970 compared with 1968.

Mr. Crosland

Manufacturers' forecasts provided to the Board of Trade at the end of last year indicated a rise in investment of between 10 and 15 per cent. in real terms between 1968 and 1969 with a further increase between 1969 and 1970.

Mr. Hall-Davis

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there have recently been reports and assessments by independent economists that the upward trend at the end of last year was already slowing down markedly? Does the information available to him indicate the same trend?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. We have no evidence to support what the hon. Member is saying. I should say that our last investment intention survey is supported by the most recent surveys carried out by the C.B.I. and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, and is also strongly supported by the figures for i.d.c. approvals and the current figures of orders in the engineering industry as a whole, and in machine tools.

Sir K. Joseph

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we very much hope that he is right. Is he also aware that year after year his Department's manufacturing trend forecasts have proved very optimistic indeed?

Mr. Crosland

It is obvious that any attempt to make a forecast based on replies given to us by manufacturers contains a considerable possibility of error. All I can say is that the other indications available to us in this case support the view that 1969 and 1970 will be years of strongly rising investment.

Mr. Dickens

In view of the disturbing remarks of Mr. Catherwood about the level of investment in this country, can my right hon. Friend say what the figures will be, in real terms, in 1969 compared with 1961—a comparison which Mr. Catherwood has made recently, to the disadvantage of more recent years?

Mr. Crosland

I would have hoped for notice of that question. I shall gladly give the figures if I am given notice. I agree with my hon. Friend and with Mr. Catherwood that for 20 years the level of investment in this country has been much too low. That is one reason why we have persistently run into balance of payments crises every time we have had a period of economic expansion.

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