HC Deb 08 July 1971 vol 820 cc1512-4
Q1. Mr. Barnett

asked the Prime Minister if the public statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on a British Broadcasting Corporation radio programme on 13th June, 1971 on the economy, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Barnett

In that broadcast the Chancellor of the Exchequer was charged with cynical deception on prices and in a remarkable reply he said that he had been successful in reducing the rate of price increases. As the rate of increase to May, 1970, was 6.1 per cent. and this year it is 9.8 per cent., may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say which system of arithmetic his right hon. Friend is using?

The Prime Minister

The interviewer did not charge my right hon. Friend with any such thing because it is not the job of B.B.C. interviewers to charge Ministers with such matters. In dealing with prices, my right hon. Friend pointed out, I think rightly, as the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett) will agree, that it takes time for wage inflation to work through into cost inflation.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Answer the question.

The Prime Minister

The Leader of the Opposition may chuckle at this, but his right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has already revealed that he, the then Prime Minister, chose the date of the General Election to avoid the point at which wage increases were working through to price increases—and he is constantly bemoaning his failure.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

While we do not doubt that the 13th June statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer then represented Government policy, however inadequately, we should be interested to know whether it will represent Government policy on 13th July and 13th August. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether we shall have reflationary measures before the House rises for the Summer Recess or whether yesterday's report of the meeting of the National Economic Development Council was misleading?

The Prime Minister

The reports I have seen of the N.E.D.C. meeting yesterday stated that there was a general discussion of questions affecting inflation and that the Secretary-General had been asked to work with members of the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. and the Government to see what proposals could be put forward at the next N.E.D.C. meeting in August. There was no firm statement about reflation or anything connected with it. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept what my right hon. Friend said, which is that he is considering this matter and that if he decides at any time that more measures are necessary, he will indicate them to the House.