HC Deb 04 December 1973 vol 865 cc1081-3
Q2. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister if the speech of the Home Secretary made at Carshalton on 17th November on economic matters represents Government policy.

Q13. Mr. Meacher

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department at Carshalton on 17th November on economic measures represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Q21. Mr. Sydney Chapman

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department on Government policies at Carshalton on Saturday 17th November represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Skinner

In that speech at Carshalton the Home Secretary, speaking about the economy, used the phrase these are the ingredients for success—not failure ". Will the Prime Minister say whether a £2,000 million trade deficit, a 13 per cent. bank rate, the lowest house building record for 20 years looming up and astronomical price increases constitute success? If they do, will he use his vivid imagination to describe failure?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry to learn that the hon. Member does not agree with the policy of expansion of the economy, which the trade unions have urged upon the Government and which we told them frankly would mean a deficit on the balance of payments while the raw materials and additional plant and machinery were imported. The policy has had the result of bringing down unemployment by several hundred thousand in the last year. The Government's success in this sphere is welcomed by all those who work in industry and by the unions.

Mr. Chapman

Since the volume as well as the value of our exports is on a strong rising trend, and in view of the deficit on the balance of payments, is it not all the more important that we should reduce to an absolute minimum the imbalance of trade between this country and, for example, the USSR? Will my right hon. Friend assure us that this is one of the subjects being raised by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in Moscow today?

The Prime Minister

The whole question of trade between the USSR and this country is constantly raised with Ministers of the Soviet Union, not only here but in New York. It is also being discussed by my right hon. Friend in Moscow. It is true that this imbalance has lasted for about 20 years and each Government have successively tried to bring it into balance. However, the arguments for so doing have never yet been accepted by the Soviet Union.

Mr. Meacher

As the Home Secretary painted such a rosy picture of expansion, why should not the miners receive an extra £1 above the present offer when, since they last had a wage rise, one man has gained an extra £20 million from keeping Centre Point open and the Government have now run away from trying to stop him?

The Prime Minister

We have discussed in the House the very fair and generous nature of the offer to those in the mining industry by the National Coal Board. The Government believe that the stage 3 policy is the right one for the country to follow, and the code has been approved by Parliament.

Mr. William Clark

As Labour Members are always asking whether various Ministers' speeches represent Government policy, would my right hon. Friend care to say whether the inflammatory speeches of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) represent the policy of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

I must leave that to the various leaders of the Opposition to sort out.

Mr. Stonehouse

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has officially admitted that the 13 per cent. rate was imposed to prevent the pound floating further downwards, what is the point of having a floating pound? Will not the Prime Minister consider returning to a fixed rate soon?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I do not think that the time is appropriate.

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