HC Deb 27 April 1971 vol 816 cc211-2
6. Mr. Barnett

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the likely effect of his Budget proposals on the level of unemployment in 1971.

Mr. Barber

The Budget was designed, after a time, to slow down the rise in unemployment and then to halt it. Its success in achieving this will depend above all on the progress of de-escalation of pay settlements.

Mr. Barnett

The Chancellor has conceded again today that he has the power to reduce the level of unemployment. Why will he not tell the House now that he is prepared to act further if it seems likely to reach 1 million? If he will not give that assurance, the House will be bound to conclude that he is prepared to reach that figure.

Mr. Barber

I can only tell the hon. Gentleman absolutely frankly that if wage inflation continues at present rates I can hold out no hope of an early halt in the rise of unemployment, much less a reduction.

Mr. Ashley

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that there are significant differences between the two sides of the House on an acceptable level of unemployment? Will he name a figure which he personally will find unacceptable?

Mr. Barber

No, Sir; but I believe that there is common ground between both sides of the House that the present level of unemployment is too high.

Mr. Heffer

Would the right hon. Gentleman not admit that he and his hon. Friends, on this claim that so-called wage or cost inflation is responsible for inflation, are rather in their propaganda like Dr. Goebbels, in that if one continues to say a lie long enough, the people in the country will believe it? Is it not time that the Government stopped this nonsense of suggesting that high wages are responsible for unemployment, and got down to a policy of properly reflating the economy and dealing with the problem of unemployment, for which they are basically responsible?

Mr. Barber

No, Sir. The people in the country know that what I have been saying is true. It is right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who are burying their heads in the sand.