HC Deb 01 July 1974 vol 876 cc7-9
5. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for Industry on what date his Department intends to publish the results of its next inquiry into investment intentions.

Mr. Benn

On 7th October 1974.

Mr. Pardoe

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Is he aware that the last survey of investment intentions carried out by his Department was done before the Budget results had sunk fully into the consciousness of industrialists, and that therefore they have not had sufficient time to take account of them? If the new survey shows a pessimism corresponding to that of the last one, what steps will the right hon. Gentleman take to encourage new investment? In particular, how does he intend to distinguish between what will be profitable and what will be unprofitable investment?

Mr. Benn

The hon. Gentleman will no doubt have seen the Financial Times survey of business opinion, published today, which shows that three times as many businessmen are optimistic about the future today as there were in the first three months of this year, when the previous Government left office. He will also know that there has been a general increase in confidence since the previous Government left office, and that during the period of the last Government there was a collapse of investment, in marked contrast to the substantial increase that occurred under the previous Labour Government. He will also well know that the Government's policies for industry will be designed to achieve, and will achieve, an increase in investment.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that there has been an increase in confidence he simply does not understand what the English language means. May I ask him two questions? First, in the June survey of industrial investment intentions there is what is described by his own Department as a substantial weakening of investment intentions. What will he do about that? Secondly, will he give an assurance now that the next survey of investment intentions, which is due in early September, will be published on its due date and will not be postponed or suppressed for electoral reasons?

Mr. Benn

The hon. Gentleman should not assume that we shall do what his Government did in delaying the publication of key figures. If he disagrees with the Financial Times survey, perhaps he will sort that out with the Financial Times. I have quoted the Financial Timessurvey. I remind the hon. Gentleman that investment rose by 18 per cent. under the last Labour Government and dropped by 15 per cent. under his Government. That is the actual investment performance. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will remember that some of the reasons for the collapse of investment intentions during the last few months of the last Government were, first, the collapse of the boom, second, the oil situation, third, the cuts made by the last Chancellor of the Exchequer in December and, fourth, the disastrous three-day working week, for which the hon. Gentleman shares responsibility.