HC Deb 27 March 1975 vol 889 cc688-90
3. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to visit the City of London.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Molloy

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the many warm expressions that have emanated from some parts of the City about the increase in British exports in the past quarter? Does he agree that in view of this welcome change of heart in some parts of the City, those other parts that maintain their myopic hostility to Labour Government should drop it?

The Prime Minister

It is true that the recent trend in the balance of payments has been warmly welcomed in the City. One cannot judge long-term trends from even three months—although I have known people who have tried to judge them on the basis of a single month's figures—but it is a fact that—and here the City, with its increasing invisible earnings, has made a significant contribution—over the past month or two we have seen the non-oil deficit, which was very big last year, turned into a surplus. It will be the hope of every hon. Member, as well as everyone in the City, that this trend will be maintained. We still have the oil deficit to meet, but progress has been made. The important thing now is to ensure that everything is done, both internally and externally, to maintain that progress.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Will the Prime Minister visit the City and other parts of London to collect opinions about the forthcoming visit of Mr. Shelepin and then issue clear instructions on whether that gentleman is to receive official entertainment?

The Prime Minister

I know the interest taken by the hon. and gallant Gentleman in these matters. I visit the City frequently, and when I do not do so I have representative City leaders to No. 10, as I did last Monday night. We have regular dinners here in Westminster and in the City. Last week I met the BIA. I always invite the City leaders to say anything that they have on their minds. They have a great deal to say about financial, economic and industrial matters, but not one of them has so far raised the question of Mr. Shelepin. This is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has answered a Question on it.

Mr. Henderson

When the Prime Minister visits the City of London, will he look into the question of the London weighting allowance, and take into account the fact that many people in Scotland feel it a great injustice, when they suffer similar cost pressures, that there is no similar allowance for them? With his well-known sense of fairness and consideration for Scotland, will the right hon. Gentleman seek speedily to put that matter right?

The Prime Minister

It is not a subject that I could explore satisfactorily within the City of London. The London weighting allowance is not confined to the Square Mile. The Scottish question has been raised a number of times. It was not raised with me on my two recent visits to Scotland, but I am well aware of the feelings expressed by the hon. Gentleman, and I am grateful for the kind reference he made to me.