HC Deb 10 November 1966 vol 735 cc341-2W
Mr. Brooks

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will make a statement about a review of the National Plan.

Mr. M. Stewart

As my predecessor informed the House on more than one occasion, the Government intended that the National Plan should be reviewed and revised from time to time. We had it in mind in the first instance to publish a review of progress towards the end of this year. We would then go on to a major revision and rolling forward of the Plan. This would involve thorough detailed work, and we did not expect to complete it for publication before the latter part of 1967.

Since we worked out this tentative programme we have had to take, for reasons which we fully explained at the time, the drastic corrective measures of 20th July. These were an overriding necessity. Although the National Plan acknowledged that growth in the early years would be restrained by the balance of payments, the change in the outlook brought about by the developments which necessitated these measures has invalidated many of the assumptions and figures in the Plan. That does not mean that the concept of planning is invalidated; indeed, it is more than ever necessary that we should push ahead with the programme of action contained in the Plan and work out plans which will enable us to resume at the earliest possible moment progress towards the kind of annual rate of growth which was the objective of the 1965 National Plan.

It will take time to work out a coordinated and soundly based revised plan of this sort. For that reason, anything to be published this year could do little more than look back over a course of events which is already familiar. We must look forward, not back, and I have therefore decided, after consulting the National Economic Development Council, that in the changed circumstances we should not proceed with our original idea of publishing a review of the Plan this year, but should concentrate our efforts on the more far-reaching and constructive task of preparing the ground work for next year's operation. In agreeing with this approach, the National Economic Development Council strongly reaffirmed its belief in the continuing value of planning, and I shall now proceed to discuss further with it and with the other organisations concerned the kind of planning operation that will be most effective in helping us to achieve our objectives.