National Plan

Oral Answers to Questions — Economic Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th April 1968.

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Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe 12:00 am, 4th April 1968

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he now intends publishing the Government's proposed national plan; and whether he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, what effect the recent Budget proposals will have on the National Plan.

Photo of Mr Peter Hordern Mr Peter Hordern , Horsham

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he will publish a new national plan.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

We aim to publish a substantial planning document in the autumn describing the economic and industrial prospects over the next four to five years. This could serve as a basis for further planning work next year. It will take account of all the relevant factors including those referred to by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell).

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the stationery bill has gone up by £6·5 million this year? Is not publication of these plans, which never seem to work, a further waste of money? Would it not be better to abolish the whole idea?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's view is shared by those engaged in planning and certainly not by the N.E.D.C., or by the large number of firms anxious that the Government should carry on their planning work.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that this time the new national plan is put together more intelligently than the last one? Will not he concede that the last National Plan had certain weaknesses, particularly its failure to take account of that most obvious contingency, the balance of payments crisis?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

This document will make the best possible use of the available information, but I need hardly remind the House that one of the problems with the 1965 Plan was the great shortage of statistical material available to the planners and forecasters.

Photo of Sir Robert Cary Sir Robert Cary , Manchester, Withington

What happened to the first National Plan? Has it been pulped?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

The forecasts and assumptions on which it was based were invalidated by events in 1966.

Photo of Mr George Jeger Mr George Jeger , Goole

While appreciating that there is no shortage of planning, particularly with regard to Humberside and South Yorkshire, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not agree that what we require there is a little less planning and a little more action?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

My hon. Friend will know that we have already given our response to the very excellent report on preliminary strategy produced by the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will publish the preliminary paper on the economy since devaluation prepared in connection with the new planning exercise for the second national plan.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

If the Ministry will not publish this report, could the hon. Gentleman tell us the estimated growth of the gross national product over the six years 1964–70? Is it the 15½ per cent. we have been led to believe, or the full 25 per cent. proposed in the National Plan?

Photo of Mr Edmund Dell Mr Edmund Dell , Birkenhead

As the hon. Gentleman has just heard, my right hon. Friend expects to publish a substantial planning document in the autumn. I hope that it will go some way to meeting the hon. Gentleman's requirements. Meanwhile, a very informative Financial Statement has been published by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

Will the paper give any indication of how the forecasts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year totally differ from the forecasts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer this year? Will it analyse how Government economic policy has completely broken down?

Photo of Mr Edmund Dell Mr Edmund Dell , Birkenhead

I cannot accept that. This Government have gone a great deal further in publishing economic forecasts than was ever done in the past.

Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen

When the Minister devises the second national plan, would he make it clear, which was not made clear in the first National Plan, whether it is a forecast or a target, because it cannot be both?

Photo of Mr Edmund Dell Mr Edmund Dell , Birkenhead

Obviously the plan will have elements of a forecast and a target in it. After all, the Government, in publishing this planning document, are responding to a great deal of pressure placed on them by industry as well as to their own need for a basis for their own public expenditure proposals.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs how many people are engaged upon studies for a new national plan.

Photo of Mr Edmund Dell Mr Edmund Dell , Birkenhead

No Government servant is engaged solely on work of this kind, which enters into the work of all those concerned with economic policy and forecasting.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Will the hon. Gentleman consider referring this activity to the National Board for Prices and Incomes to see whether it thinks we are getting value for money with all this national planning?

Photo of Mr Edmund Dell Mr Edmund Dell , Birkenhead

The hon. Gentleman is clearly completely out of touch with the needs expressed by industry of this country for Government planning, and also equally out of touch with the Government's own requirement to make a basis for public expenditure which his party continually insists we should keep under control.