Orders of the Day — Customs (Import Deposits) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1969.

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Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton 12:00 am, 17th November 1969

A comparison of the current credit squeeze with other credit squeezes depends upon many circumstances, and it is unfair to take it out of context. The effect of credit squeezes on companies depends on many factors. One cannot say, with the stricter control of domestic credit expansion, that we are now, because of Milton Friedman and the money supply theory, looking more closely than we did at the amount of control. It may be that on other occasions the control was exercised without anybody being aware of it, including those exercising it.

The manufacturing investment figures have been bandied about, and all of us, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, feel these to be inadequate. I do not want to go into the question of whether the manufacturing investment figures provided by the Board of Trade survey or the C.B.I. survey are the right ones. Those figures could be used in many ways. One problem about debates on economic affairs in the House is that, unlike the more reputable papers, we do not always separate opinion from fact. The hon. Gentleman, who is normally so good with his facts, got himself politically involved this afternoon, and we did not get a separation of opinion and facts.

It would be astonishing if the credit squeeze did not have some effect on the decision of a board of directors as to its expectations and also on liquidity. Whether or not management is efficient is not the point. The point is that manufacturing investment will be affected. If the figure goes up 10 per cent., one would assume that had it not been for the credit squeeze it would have gone up further.

One of the heaviest prices which we pay for parliamentary democracy is that manufacturing investment does not pay off in the short term. Every Government, not just this Government, put other economic factors before manufacturing investment because the pay-off from manufacturing investment does not come in the short term, and we have elections in the short term. This is one of the prices we must pay.

I put my priority with manufacturing investment. If in the process of getting a higher rate of manufacturing investment, vie had a balance of payments surplus of, say, £300 million instead of £500 million, I would be satisfied that my priorities were right.