HC Deb 24 May 1976 vol 912 cc25-8
36. Mr. Gow

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he next intends to pay an official visit to the Duchy.

37. Mr. Skinner

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he next intends to pay an official visit to the Duchy.

39. Mr. Canavan

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he next intends to pay an official visit to the Duchy of Lancaster.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Harold Lever)

I have no plans for an official visit to the Duchy at the present time.

Mr. Gow

Since the Chancellor has no plans to visit the Duchy, and as he has been relieved of some of his duties concerning North Sea oil, will he confirm that he is still the chief economic adviser to the Government and tell us the nature of the advice that he is giving about the public sector borrowing requirement?

Mr. Lever

I have confirmed that, despite my personal physical absence from the Duchy, I continue to look after the Duchy affairs. I am economic and financial adviser to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. As for the nature of the advice, if the hon. Gentleman would be more specific I would be happy to repeat it to him, so far as it is not confidential to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Skinner

Now that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been relieved of certain duties in respect of the oil deals, will he perhaps go to the Duchy and explain, as economic adviser to the Government, the list of the successes that he has achieved, especially as Bank Rate is nearly at an all-time high, with record unemployment, a massive balance of trade deficit and the pound at an all-time low? Are these the sorts of successes for which he has been responsible, or does the net go even wider?

Mr. Lever

At the risk of disappointing my hon. Friend, may I point out that he has failed to observe that the Prime Minister has indicated that I shall remain closely associated with the North Sea oil negotiations? With regard to the Government's achievements, there is little evidence that my hon. Friend, although in continuous nominal support of the Government, has ever been other than in critical dissent from any major policy of the Government.

Mr. Rost

Was the right hon. Gentleman relieved of his duties to negotiate with the North Sea oil companies because he had reached as far as he could go on a voluntary basis or because he was not going far enough?

Mr. Lever

The hon. Gentleman could not have been listening with his usual close attention or intelligence. As I pointed out to my hon. Friend, I have not been relieved of my duties. We have reached a stage in the negotiations when the Prime Minister properly took the view that it is now time that a lead should be taken in those negotiations by the Secretary of State. I remain closely associated with the negotiations, and their character has not fundamentally changed from what it would have been if I had remained in another rôle.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the change of ministerial responsibility for North Sea oil, may we expect some continuing participation in accordance with the Labour Party manifesto instead of the sham agreement with the multinationals?

Mr. Lever

The hon. Gentleman has repeatedly asserted these agreements to be a sham. They are not a sham. We have proceeded on the same principles of participation, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, in continuing successfully to negotiate with the oil companies concerning the North Sea.

Mr. Tapsell

When the right hon. Gentleman next gives economic advice to the Prime Minister, will he draw the Prime Minister's attention to the fact that it is almost universally agreed abroad and at home that nothing would more quickly strengthen the position of the £ sterling internationally than for the Government immediately to announce substantial expenditure cuts? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is widely agreed by many of us who are horrified at the concept of widespread unemployment that expenditure cuts would have no greater effect on unemployment if they were made now rather than next year as proposed?

Mr. Lever

The hon. Gentleman would be more constructive and more sincere in his purpose if he were to raise those points where they could be properly discussed. [Interruption.] I mean in circumstances which would permit the exhaustive discussion of the points he raised. I must content myself by inviting the hon. Gentleman to let us have particulars of the cuts that he thinks we should make and which he thinks would be desirable, and when he is able to suggest what those are they will certainly be drawn to the attention of the Government.

Mr. Heffer

Assuming that the Duchy of Lancaster covers Merseyside, will my right hon. Friend get down to the nitty-gritty of the question of the decision on Friday that Glasgow should receive £120 million, which will not affect the ratepayers of Glasgow, for the redevelopment of the centre of that city? Is he aware that in the Duchy of Lancaster there are cities like Liverpool and Manchester which have equally serious urban redevelopment problems? Will he consult his right hon. Friends in the Government—I see that he is doing so now—and come up with some positive proposals to assist cities like Liverpool and Manchester to deal with their urban renewal without the whole cost going on to the rates?

Mr. Lever

I can promise my hon. Friend that both those cities are near to my heart, one nearer than the other, and that I shall closely watch what possibilities there are within Government policy to advantage them. But none of this alters the fact that the Government's action in relation to Glasgow was amply warranted by the extent of poverty in that city.

Mr. Pym

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what representations he has received, if any, from the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers, on behalf of that section of farm workers whom it represents, in relation to tied houses which form part of the Duchy's property?

Mr. Lever

I have received no such representation

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