HC Deb 27 April 1971 vol 816 cc220-1
21. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the amount by which public expenditure will be reduced in the current financial year as a result of decisions announced since 18th June, 1970.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Policy decisions announced up to the time of the White Paper on Public Expenditure 1969–70 to 1974–75 (Cmnd. 4578) reduced the previous programmes by £315 million, but diverted £50 million of this to enlarge the Contingency Reserve. I cannot yet estimate the net effect of decisions announced after this, which represents in the first place a charge on the Contingency Reserve.

Mr. Baker

Whilst I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the Treasury Ministers upon making a start, may I press them to ensure that there is a constant Ministerial review of all public expenditure to ensure that the figures in the White Paper are kept to and that public expenditure in any event will not in 1971 exceed the growth in our productive potential?

Mr. Macmillan

My hon. Friend has rather neatly stated practically the sole reason for my existence—to ensure as far as possible that this does happen.

Mr. Barnett

Will the hon. Gentleman go if it does not?

Mr. Freeson

Bearing in mind the grave need to increase the rate of slum clearance and new housing construction by local authorities throughout the country to solve our housing problems, does the Minister agree that there should be an increase in the allocation of public expenditure for local authority housing in the coming year?

Mr. Macmillan

One of the main objects of rearranging public expenditure as we are doing is to ensure that the Government do not spend money on projects which can well be handled by the private sector, partly to ensure that a greater degree of care and attention can be devoted to those things, which only the Government can do.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Does the hon. Gentleman's answer to his hon. Friend's supplementary question mean that in the event of the increase in public expenditure exceeding the increase in the gross national product this year he will regard himself as having failed in his job, and feel it necessary to resign?

Mr. Macmillan

The right hon. Gentleman should not allow his natural optimism and wishful thinking to lead him to read too much into my statements in that way.