HC Deb 17 February 1976 vol 905 cc1125-6
Q3. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on the economy in London to the Overseas Bankers' Club on 2nd February.

The Prime Minister

I did so, Sir, on 4th February.

Mr. Renton

Does the Prime Minister recall that, carried away perhaps by the spirit of the occasion, he assured those present at that banquet that we are winning through but that there can be no let-up? Will he tell the House how he sees us winning through, in the context of unemployment at a record high and the sterling exchange rate at a record low?

The Prime Minister

The House has recently debated unemployment, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and others have been answering Questions about it today. I was not carried away. I was responding there, and at Birmingham, to a very clear statement of increased confidence by business, and I gave the House last week the text of what business has in effect said. The hon. Gentleman might draw attention—and so might the whole Opposition—to the vast improvement in our balance of payments, which affects exchange rates and the rest. The deficit in the balance of payments, including oil, is now very much less than it was under the Conservatives in their last year before the oil crisis hit Britain.

Mr. Ashton

Did the Overseas Bankers Club confirm that general interest rates are falling and that one way of stimulating the construction industry and preventing unemployment would be to tell the building societies to cut their interest rate to 10 per cent?

The Prime Minister

The building societies have certainly had a record inflow and they have also been lending considerably. On housing generally, my hon. Friend will be aware that in 1974 there were 30 per cent. more public sector starts and 20 per cent. more completions than in 1973. For 1975, public sector starts—the highest since 1969—were 18 per cent. further up on 1974, and completions were 24 per cent. up. The figures for 1973 were the lowest since the end of the war, in certain aspects of housing.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

As we appear to be doing so well, according to the Prime Minister, will he consider consulting our European partners and our American allies on the possibility of increasing aid to those countries, such as Zaire and Zambia, which appear to be most threatened by recent events in Angola, for the purpose of helping them in their difficulties and ensuring our future supplies of the raw materials that they provide?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. As I have said on many occasions, I agree about the increased urgency because of recent events.

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