HL Deb 30 April 1968 vol 291 cc974-6

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will publish a simple breakdown of the £800 million deficit which they allege they inherited when they came into office in 1964.]


My Lords, a simple breakdown of the balance of payments in 1964, together with a considerable amount of detailed analysis, is published in the latest Balance of Payments Pink Book, United Kingdom Balance of Payments, 1967, produced by the Central Statistical Office, a copy of which is in the Library.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. Would he use his influence with the other members of the Government to prevent the spreading of this allegation which, at best, is distorted, bearing in mind that at least half the deficit was capital investment? And does the noble Lord support the allegation that was made by his right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury during the Second Reading of the Finance Bill in another place recently?


My Lords, I do not know about the latter half of the noble Lord's list of allegations, but as to the first part there is no question of allegation here. The facts are there in the Pink Book, which I advise the noble Lord to read.


My Lords, would my noble friend agree that the breakdown was in consequence of the deficit?


My Lords, I fear that that is a bit too subtle for me.


My Lords is my noble friend also aware that the Tory Government of the day knew that this deficit was building up and did nothing at all about it?


My Lords, that is perfectly true. If, as I thought, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, wants to make a political point out of this, the facts are that in 1964 the deficit on current account was £402 million and last year the deficit on current account was £514 million. But the difference between the two, as my noble friend Lord Rhodes says, is that the first deficit came after 13 years of "never having had it so good" whereas in the second case we are now, for the first time, interpreting our economic difficulties in a Budget which, if unpopular, is certainly realistic.


My Lords, has the Minister compared the figures of the deficit that the Tory Government inherited from the previous Labour Government in 1951; and has he noticed that my noble friend Lord Jellicoe pointed out the comparative figures in a debate, and that his allegations have never been answered?


My Lords, if the noble Lord wants to go further back, I would point out to him that that deficit was after a war in which all of us had used our resources in order to preserve freedom in the world. I really do not believe there is much good to be gained in bandying these deficits about. What I do believe is that we must now look to the future.