HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc201-3
Q1. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech made by the Secretary of State for Industry to the Parliamentary Press Gallery on 18th May regarding the performance of British industry represented the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Q10. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Industry in London on 18th May on the subject of Government intervention in industry represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

The handout from the Secretary of State's Department on that speech was headed "Jokes, etc." Are we to take it from the Prime Minister's much-publicised takeover of the right hon. Gentleman's Department last week that he considered that the jokes have gone far enough, at least this side of the General Election? Meantime, will the Prime Minister publish the Treasury's estimate of the inflationary implications of the Secretary of State's National Enterprise Board?

The Prime Minister

As to jokes, I thought the hon. Gentleman's fell rather flat. It is not true that I took over my right hon. Friend's Department last week. Indeed, several weeks ago I decided to take over a Cabinet Committee dealing with these questions. In his final question about Treasury estimates, the hon. Gentleman is no doubt basing himself on an imaginative column in yesterday's edition of The Times, which has no relation to the truth.

Mr. Sillars

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the reasons for our pursuing public ownership is the need for the public to control investment? Is he aware that the greatest and most eloquent condemnation of private enterprise's poor investment performance came not from any Labour Members but from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, when he delivered a stern lecture to directors at the Institute of Directors?

The Prime Minister

I remember that speech. I dealt with this matter in a public speech last Friday, in which I repeated what is contained within our manifesto, the Government's policy, and what I said during the Gracious Speech debate.

Mr. Adley

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that nationalisation leads to happier workers, higher productivity, or better industrial relations? Is not the ultimate conclusion of this "Bennfoolery" likely to be yet again—to use the words which the right hon. Gentleman has used—that it makes no sense to take over Marks and Spencer to reach the peak of efficiency of the Co-op?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will remember that last week I answered a similar question. I wish that I had thought of that phrase. In fact, it is not my phrase and it was wrong to attribute it to me.

The investment record of public industry has been extremely successful and has been used by successive Governments for 20 years whenever there has been a need to stimulate the economy. I do not recall under the previous Government, despite all that was said about investment and the admonitions that were issued, that investment ever returned to the 1970 level. I think that that is a sufficient answer to the hon. Gentleman. If he has any other questions at any other time I shall be glad to answer them.

Mr. Kinnock

Does my right hon. Friend share my fascination regarding the reaction of the Opposition following the speeches that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry has been making recently? Does he think that their reaction is inspired more by their concern for the country's economic welfare or by the fact that a number of business pimps inhabit the Opposition Front Benches?

The Prime Minister

No, I do not accept that theory. I think that an Opposition which so far have not offered any more than token opposition in this House have suddenly thought that they should get worked up about something. As a result, retrospectively, they are getting worked up about something which was published last year, which we said last year and on which we fought the election, but which they forgot because they were so busy justifying the three-day working week.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to waste the time of the House—

Mr. Speaker

Order. In that case, will the hon. Gentleman raise his point of order at the end of Question Time?