Economic Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1965.

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Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Colne Valley 12:00 am, 17th November 1965

Yes, indeed. One can hardly say otherwise in view of the great efforts which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had to make this year to try to overcome that crisis of confidence.

It is important that we should briefly review some of the key economic indicators not touched on in the debate so that we can assess the Opposition's performance during the last, say, 10 years. I want primarily to contrast the position of a year ago, on the eve of the election, with the present position so as to bring out the corrective actions demanded by that crisis—a balance of payments crisis as well as a confidence crisis—which the Government inherited or which was certainly in existence, whether or not it was coincidental with our coming to power. I want to consider how far they have been, first, implemented by the Government, and, secondly, related to the Government's long-term objectives.

I want to do that against the background of a remarkable speech by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in New York on 14th April to which many Americans referred while I was touring the United States only recently for seven weeks, when I had the fortune and pleasure to meet many American businessmen, economists and journalists. They were almost at one in their admiration of what they had seen of the Prime Minister, not only on 14th May, but subsequently. They have since by Telstar seen him meet the Press. His speech in Wall Street in April stuck in their minds, and I want to refer to it later because it will help me in dealing with the Liberal Party's Amendment to the Gracious Speech and to make some sort of appraisal of the Government's programme, its objectives and its chances of success.

The right hon. Member for Enfield, West was right to emphasise the way in which, while his party was in office, the living standards of the people increased. He said that they had gone up by 49 per cent. over the last 13 years. Even if he had not mentioned that figure, I was ready to say that the gross domestic product per head of population has increased over the last 10 years by about 25 per cent., which was sufficient to double the G.D.P. over a comparatively short period of 30 years, which is a good performance by any standard. Of course, no one can deny that because it is so obviously reflected in the average consumption level in this country.

But what the right hon. Member for Enfield, West did not say in order to give a balanced picture was that the retail price level in the same period went up 36 per cent.