HC Deb 01 April 1976 vol 908 cc1576-8
Q4. Mr. Gow

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the coordination between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers in implementing the Government's White Paper on Public Expenditure.

Mr. Edward Short

I have been asked to reply.

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Gow

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to give the House a rather more imaginative reply? Is it not the case that if there is to be a recovery in the wealth-creating sector of British industry, which Britain's interest requires, there need to be substantial cuts in public expenditure in the coming year?

Mr. Short

We reject that suggestion entirely. When the economy is running below capacity, such a suggestion would result in further unemployment. We have made our proposals in regard to public expenditure to create an improvement in investment and in exports when the economy begins its upturn.

Mr. Cryer

Will my right hon. Friend explain how, following any cuts in public expenditure, the resulting resources will be transferred to British manufacturing industry? Is it not the duty of a Labour Government to take action in this sphere, rather than leave the matter to the vagaries of private enterprise by allocating that money to property companies or fringe banks, or sending it to South Africa?

Mr. Short

The matter will not be left to the people my hon. Friend mentioned. No doubt private enterprise will play a considerable part. We shall ensure that not too great a share of resources will be absorbed by public authorities, and I am sure that there will be an opportunity greatly to increase our exports.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does the Lord President agree that the House refused to accept the Government's proposals on Government expenditure?

Mr. Short

The following day the House passed a motion of confidence. Perhaps I could also remind the right hon. Lady that the Government of which she was a member were rejected. The Conservative Party received 1 million fewer votes than did the Labour Party in the election only 18 months ago, and 43 fewer seats than the Labour Party won in that election.

Mrs. Thatcher

But the right hon. Gentleman has not answered my supplementary question. I repeat that the House rejected the Government's White Paper on Government expenditure.

Mr. Short

As a matter of strict fact, it did not do so; it rejected the alternative put forward by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition. But the vote of confidence the next day was a vote of confidence in Government policies.

Mr. Canavan

Many of us deplore certain aspects of the Government's expenditure cuts, but will my right hon. Friend point out to the SNP the significance of a parliamentary Answer given to me recently by the Secretary of State for Scotland, that in education the percentage to be borne by Scotland will be much less than our percentage of the United Kingdom population? In view of this nonsense, does not the figure of 39 per cent. that is being bandied about by Members of the Scottish National Party indicate that either their arithmetic is of the same abysmal standard as their politics or else they are telling lies?

Mr. Short

I hope that my hon. Friend will do some more research and attack all the silly figures put out by the SNP about Scotland at the present time.

Mrs. Bain

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the figures put forward by the SNP in its analysis of the public expenditure cuts have been supported by a major teachers union in Scotland, and does he appreciate that SNP Members, along with the teachers, are totally opposed to public expenditure cuts in Scottish education?

Mr. Short

I have a little experience of teachers unions. I would not say that they were right just because they are teachers unions.