HC Deb 03 November 1970 vol 805 cc845-7
Q3. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to take the chair at the National Economic Development Council.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) on 29th October.—[Vol. 805, c. 97.]

Mr. Fraser

When the Prime Minister next takes the chair, will he deliver to N.E.D.C. a paper reconciling his statements made before the election about reducing public and private sector prices with the performance since then of public and private sector prices, like petrol, and say whether his statements made shortly before 18th June were based on faith, hope or mendacity?

The Prime Minister

The N.E.D.C. is aware of the action which the Government took at the beginning on coal prices and Post Office charges. The N.E.D.C. is also well aware, as I know from the two occasions on which I have presided over it, of the impact on prices of inflationary wage increases.

Mr. Moyle

Will the Prime Minister confirm that it will be pointless the National Economic Development Council discussing the problems of the fishing industry, as the Common Market countries have decided their fishing policy without taking into account the views of Her Majesty's Government? Is the right hon. Gentleman looking forward to a further diminution of the agenda of the N.E.D.C. as the years go by by a similar process? Is this what he means by less government?

The Prime Minister

I admire the hon. Gentleman's ingenuity in getting Common Market fishing policy in on his question about the N.E.D.C. It has not discussed this subject and, as far as I know, it has no intention of doing so.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Referring to the right hon. Gentleman's previous answer, it was clear last Tuesday that the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarded the Prime Minister as having gone back on his statement of 16th June—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—Oh, yes—and gave reasons for going back on it. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us to which view he subscribes? Is he still carrying out that statement or resting on the Chancellor's excuses for not carrying it out?

The Prime Minister

The Chancellor in no way regarded Her Majesty's Government as having gone back on that statement. We said that we would deal directly with public sector prices, and where we thought it justifiable to do so, and after referring them to the consumer councils—[interruption.]—we have done so.

As to taxation policy, we have already in four months started to undo the work of the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Did the right hon. Gentleman, on 16th June, say or not say that he would take action at a stroke to reduce prices? Has he done so?

The Prime Minister

I have never used the words "at a stroke"—

Hon. Members


Mr. Jay

Will the Prime Minister say whether the N.E.D.C. is still operating precisely as it did under the previous Government?

The Prime Minister

From the point of view of organisation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now the Chairman and I take the chair from time to time when it is thought appropriate to do so; whereas, under the last Administration, the then Prime Minister, I think in 1967, decided to take the chair permanently and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would sometimes deputise. That is the organisational change.