HC Deb 16 December 1971 vol 828 cc843-4
Q1. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech by the Secretary of State for Employment made to the Ealing Chamber of Commerce on 26th November on economic matters represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Sheldon

Is the Prime Minister aware that in his speech the right hon. Gentleman said that the blame for the present high levels of unemployment was due not to the Government but rather to unreliable economic forecasts? If those forecasts had been accurate, what different action would the Prime Minister have taken?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend in that speech analysed a number of reasons for the increase in unemployment and pointed out at the same time the difficulties of forecasting, which I thought had been accepted by successive Governments, and in particular the lack of accurate forecasting during this period when we have been moving into a different employment situation. What my right hon. Friend said was that if some of the forecasts had given different indications the timing of reflation could have been different.

Mr. Batsford

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the speech was exceedingly well received by Ealing Chamber of Commerce?

The Prime Minister

It was a serious analysis of the way in which unemployment has developed in this country over the past two years and the different reasons for it.

Mrs. Castle

It is gratifying that the Secretary of State for Employment has stopped blaming all our economic problems on the trade unions. Does the fact that the Government are now in full retreat on all their policies, including the decision announced yesterday to suspend the iniquitous restriction of the payment of unemployment benefit for short-time workers, mean that we are now witnessing a permanent repentance by the Government or is it merely a piece of scene-setting for an early election before the effects of our entry into the Common Market can be felt?

The Prime Minister

I have never heard anyone utter more silly things in one breath than that.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean, after today's very grave unemployment figures, that he is brushing off a series of questions from my right hon. Friend by that kind of reply?

The Prime Minister

Trying to tie up a general election with entry to the Economic Community is a very silly question.

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