Oral Answers to Questions — Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Speech)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th July 1967.

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Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Portsmouth Langstone 12:00 am, 18th July 1967

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech by the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs at Birmingham on 25th June on the extension of public ownership represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs at Birmingham on 25th June on the further extension of the public sector of the economy represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Alec Jones Mr Alec Jones , Rhondda West

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs at Birmingham on 25th June on extensions of public ownership represents Government policy.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Portsmouth Langstone

As all Governments are demonstrably less efficient at controlling the dissipation of resources in the public sector than in inhibiting the creation of wealth in the private sector, can the Prime Minister say why the current annual rates of 9 per cent. and 16 per cent. in current and capital expenditure in the public sector should not be taken to indicate a grave deterioration in national solvency of a far graver kind than that in the balance of payments deficit which the Prime Minister laments with such monotonous regularity?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

While not wanting to compete with the hon. Gentleman's polysyllabic preamble, still less to agree with it, I would only say to him that the rate of public investment this year is rising, despite the fact that the bulge in the electricity programme which was necessary about two or three years ago is now easing off because it has reached the capacity necessary to avoid the danger of excessive power cuts in the winter months. With regard to the other items of public investment, these have been showing a sharp upward trend.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

Bearing in mind that under the Attlee Government after the war there was a succession, without any fuss, of industries being nationalised, and bearing in mind also that the steel industry has now been renationalised, will my right hon. Friend say what will be the next major industries to be the subject of the extension of public ownership?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

In the 1945–50 Government the public ownership programme was carried out in accordance with the manifesto on which the Labour Party fought the 1945 election. That has been the position in this Session as well. If my hon. Friend wants to study what was in our election mandate, he should read again the election manifesto on which he was elected to the House.

Photo of Mr Alec Jones Mr Alec Jones , Rhondda West

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that hon. Members on this side of the House would welcome an extension of public enterprise, and would he not further agree that in the development areas the advance factory programme can be pressed more effectively by a rapid extension of public enterprise?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

My hon. Friend is well aware of the discussions that we had on this programme before we came to office, and I have nothing to add to the outcome of those discussions. What my right hon. Friend was referring to in his speech was the fact that over a fairly wide feld, including science-based industries, including new projects resulting from technological research, including some of the things which are necessary for re-structuring industries, it may be necessary to ask the House for permissive powers—the aircraft industry has already been mentioned—to enable this to be done. This is what my right hon. Friend had in mind. It may be to the convenience of the House to have one Measure which will enable action of this kind to be taken, but this does not involve an extension of nationalisation in the sense in which it has previously been considered.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Would it not be wiser and more sensible to postpone the nationalisation of any further industries until those which have been nationalised have been proved to run efficiently and at a profit?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

If the hon. Gentleman can give many examples of private industries which have shown the same increases as the nationalised ones, I shall be glad to hear them.