National Plan

Oral Answers to Questions — Economic Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th November 1967.

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Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury 12:00 am, 16th November 1967

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will publish a statement of the planning assumptions on which the National Plan is being prepared.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what progress has been made in the preparation of the Government's proposed National Plan; when it is expected to be produced; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

Planning work is proceeding and I hope to have a further substantive discussion in N.E.D.C. on the basis of this work early in January. This discussion will be confidential and I cannot make any statement at this stage about the likely date or content of any future published document.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

That did not answer the Question, which was, what are the planning assumptions on which they are working? Surely, after 15 months of cooking-up the second edition of the National Plan, some planning assumptions must be known. Why is the public denied the industrial and business experience of the right hon. Gentleman? Have these planning assumptions been blown off course, or what?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

As the hon. Gentleman knows, one of the factors in making firm assumptions is the likely behaviour of the balance of payments—[Interruption.] I would have thought that hon. Gentlemen on all sides of the House would have recognised the importance of that factor in planning. Quite clearly, in the last few months there have been a number of unexpected developments. I refer particularly to the effect on our balance of payments of the Arab-Israeli war and the consequences there.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the whole basis of planning is to examine alternative assumptions so that the different policies can be appraised? Can he confirm that the idea of setting a main target as a basis for the assumptions, which was the basis of the Government's abortive plan, has been abandoned completely, and that in future it will be based not merely on a target but on industrial expectations?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

The next plan could usefully include both those approaches.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what National Plan he is talking about? Is it the old one, and is it to be resurrected, or is it a new one? If it is new, will it go the same way as the old one did?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

It is on that latter point that, clearly, we would wish to do all that we could to avoid that contingency.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

Can the Minister tell us whether Parliament is to have a chance of re-examining the assumptions or underlying thinking in the new plan before it appears as a finished document?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

I hope to be able, though I cannot say when, to report to the House. It will be as soon as I can after I have had consultations with the N.E.D.C.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Can my right hon. Friend indicate whether the new plan will concern itself not only with indicative planning but with physical planning on the basis of some Socialist direction of industry into the areas which really need it?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

The planning measures, as distinct from the framework of the plan, have been pursued as originally laid down in the 1965 plan. Not only have they been pursued; they have been reinforced by various legislative acts of this Government during the past year.

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

Will the Minister clearly repudiate what has just been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and make it quite clear that there is no question either of the direction of labour or of industry in the Government's thoughts?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

There is no intention to direct labour, but when the right hon. Gentleman says that there should be no direction of industry, he must take account of the fact that so far as a substantial sector of industry is concerned—the public sector—the Government have considerable ability to influence location, and it would be wrong if they did not consider how best to use this.