HC Deb 13 July 1976 vol 915 cc369-71
Q4. Mr. Nigel Lawson

asked the Prime Minister if he will dismiss the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Foot

I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) on 8th July.

Mr. Lawson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that answer is wholly unsatisfactory? Why is it that he and his colleagues imagine that they know how to manage British industry, when it is abundantly clear that neither they nor he can maintain even the Government's own business with any degree of competence?

Mr. Foot

I am sure that when the hon. Gentleman said that the previous reply was wholly unsatisfactory it meant only that he could not recall what it was. But what the Prime Minister said on that occasion was The House may assume that I do not intend to make any further ministerial changes unless and until I make a statement to the contrary."—[Official Report, 8th July 1976; Vol. 914, c. 622.] That seems to me to be a very satisfactory statement.

Mr. Heffer

Does my right hon. Friend accept that although some of us are not happy with some of the Chancellor's statements at this moment we are not necessarily in favour of his dismissal? Will my right hon. Friend accept that many of us would be bitterly opposed to any cuts in public expenditure which could lead to further unemployment? Will he bear in mind that many years ago he moved the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 on the question of the IMF letter of intent? Will he tell the House that the Government are not pursuing policies of a similar kind at this moment?

Mr. Foot

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that it is of paramount importance in the present situation to do our very best to prevent any rise in unemployment and to bring down a level which is already much too high. That is one of the prime considerations which the Government are taking into account. As for a comparison of events with 1966, I do not always believe that historical parallels are instructive. In any case there has not been an approach to the IMF on the basis that occurred in 1967.

Mr. Gow

Does the Lord President accept that excessive Government expenditure is one of the causes of unemployment? Will he advise the Prime Minister, when he returns from his meeting in Europe, that the one step he should take to reduce unemployment is to dismiss the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Foot

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's simplistic doctrine. I believe that there are occasions, as the Prime Minister underlined in the recent censure debate, when public expenditure can fortify employment. That must be taken into account also.

Mr. Dalyell

Could the Chancellor of the Exchequer's attention also be drawn to the 40 down-to-earth Written Questions which have been tabled on the project of coverting the Royal High School into a Scottish Assembly? How can we, on the one hand, deprive local authorities of £47 million on their cherished projects in Scotland and, on the other hand, envisage this colossal expenditure on Assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff?

Mr. Foot

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) takes an extremely idiosyncratic view on this subject. He is entitled to express his views, but I have to make clear to him that his view is certainly not shared by the great majority of Members on this side of the House. Furthermore, it is not borne out by commitments in the Labour Party manifesto.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am about to make a Privilege ruling, but I am prepared to take first points of order.