HC Deb 26 June 1969 vol 785 cc1684-5
10. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what revision he has made, following the discussions with the International Monetary Fund, of the estimates for our balance of trade and balance of payments made in his planning document "The Task Ahead"; and if he will make a statement.

17. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will now revise his planning document. "The Task Ahead," in the light of the estimated balance of payments for the forthcoming year.

Mr. Shore

The medium-term payments objective specified in "The Task Ahead" is not affected by any of the factors mentioned in the hon. Members' Questions.

Mr. Marten

But as the planning of the document "The Task Ahead" was based on a desired payments surplus of £500 million, and as the Chancellor said yesterday that he thought a surplus of only £300 million to be obtainable, has not one of the assumptions on which the document was based altered and do not other things follow from that?

Mr. Shore

The hon. Gentleman and I had a similar exchange shortly after the Budget statement. The point I made then was that both the Chancellor, in his short-term forecast and in his Budget speech, and I in my medium term assessment, made the same point—that we need a substantial and continuing surplus of about £500 million a year. What we did not say in the medium-term assessment was the precise year in which we expected this target to be achieved.

Mr. Ridsdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us believe that he is hundreds of millions of pounds wrong in his assessment? Would it not be better to leave planning to the I.M.F. or the Treasury and liquidate his Department?

Mr. Shore

The important thing is on which side of the forecast we are likely to be wrong. It is possible to take a somewhat more optimistic view than the obvious pessimism implicit in the hon. Gentleman's rather silly question.

Mr. George Brown

Speaking from bitter experience, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not agree that leaving it to the Treasury is bound to make it even worse?

Mr. Shore

My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), who speaks with unrivalled experience of these matters, will agree that obviously the best course is to leave it neither to the Treasury nor to the Department of Economic Affairs but to the combined effort of the two.

Mr. Higgins

While the right hon. Gentleman did not specify a year in which he thought the objective was likely to be achieved, does not he agree, after the agreement debated yesterday, that it is likely to be at least a year later than it would otherwise have been?

Mr. Shore

I see no reason to draw that conclusion. Our objective is to get a substantial and continuing surplus as soon as possible.