HC Deb 11 October 1976 vol 917 cc28-30
40. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he intends to appoint further economic advisers to assist him in his rôle of advising the Government on economic policy.

Mr. Lever

No, Sir. I am happy to say that at present supply exactly matches demand.

Mr. Renton

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on containing public expenditure within his own office at least. May I ask him whether he associates himself with the view held by some of his colleagues that no further public expenditure cuts are required to contain excessive monetary growth? Is that the right hon. Gentleman's own judgment?

Mr. Lever

My judgment is that all the economic factors in our society should be taken into account when judging what steps are required to curb any unhealthy excess in monetary growth.

Mr. Lipton

Is our economic plight due to the fact that the Government nave or have not accepted the advice of my right hon. Friend? Which is it?

Mr. Lever

My hon. Friend has to bear in mind that my work is in the nature of an adviser and not of a dictator.

Mr. Tapsell

When the right hon. Gentleman claims, as he did in reply to the previous supplementary question, that a minimum lending rate of 15 per cent. is necessary in order to reduce the money supply, whose responsibility is it that the money supply has risen at such a rapid rate in recent months?

Mr. Lever

At the risk of defying the political conventions of both parties, I must say that the history of the increase in our money supply cannot be looked at over a short cycle of time but has to be looked at over a longer period of time and that the responsibility conies from diverse factors. I do not doubt that there are possibly even imperfections in Government decisions sometimes which play a part in that, but there are many other factors, such as the terms of trade, commodity prices and the like, which play an important part, and they are too many to analyse in the course of a reply to a supplementary question.

Mr. Hooley

Can my right hon. Friend say what discussions he has had with the International Monetary Fund about the possibility of funding sterling balances? Would he care to share with the House on some occasion, or by means of a White Paper, his views on this subject?

Mr. Lever

The handling of our negotiations with the International Monetary Fund is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but at some point it might be possible to share with my hon. Friend and those others who are interested my views on this and kindred questions.

Mr. Crawford

May I return to the original Question and ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, because of the shambles which Scottish Office Ministers have made of the Scottish economy, he has plans for taking on board anyone to advise him on how to improve the Scottish enonomy?

Mr. Lever

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman would welcome it if the Duchy of Lancaster took control, in an advisory capacity, of the Scottish Office. Certainly I have no plans to do so at the present time.

Mr. Skinner

Does not my right hon. Friend appreciate that he is a little too modest about his achievements, particularly at the present time? Does he recall that he was quite happy to accept the gratitude and applause at the time when the economic situation was such that the inflation rate was down, for a short period at any rate, to about 8.4 per cent.? As he has been involved in many areas of Government Departments, does he not realise that he, or at least the strategy he has propagated, particularly against import controls, has brought us to this sorry pass? He really should tell us what the Government's present strategy is so that we can be fully aware of their policy.

Mr. Lever

I had not thought of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) primarily as a source of gratitude or applause, although I am prepared to receive either his or anyone else's comments on this or any other subject. The Government have made their position with regard to import controls clear again and again. For the very best of reasons, including our direct advantage in our international trading position, the Government are firmly against general import controls.