Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford 12:00 am, 20th April 1970

The position in the overall account was a heavy deterioration between the second and third quarters. The right hon. Gentleman was there, and was doing absolutely nothing about it. I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) accusing me of expecting things to happen in the future, and now one hears the right hon. Member for Barnet say that we ought to be judged by what has happened in the future and not in the past.

However, I take the view, which I think is not unreasonable in the circumstances, that it might now be well to turn to the Budget of 1970 rather than that of 1964.

My first comment on our four-day debate is that it is remarkable how the Opposition have tried to remove from the arena the two main subjects on which they concentrated in both 1968 and 1969; first, the balance of payments—and the right hon. Gentleman had something to say about balance of payments in 1964 —and, secondly, public expenditure. The question of balance of payments dominated the whole debate last year and, I think, the year before. Hon. Members opposite both last year and the year before concentrated at all costs on the balance of payments and on public expenditure, and they know perfectly well that they now do not want to discuss these subjects which they then regarded as central to our economic purposes because they know that we have achieved great economic success.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) said last year, with his unfailing sense of timing, that I was faced with a deteriorating balance of payments—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Read it."] I shall be glad to read it. What the right hon. Gentleman said on 15th April last year, the day of the Budget, was: …but at the same time the Chancellor is faced with a deteriorating situation in our balance of payments overseas "— and he went on to say, rather oddly: and no one can regret this more than the House itself."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 15th April, 1969; Vol. 781, c. 1046.] We were, in fact, at the very time when the right hon. Gentleman said that, just past the most decisive turn for the better —far more than the right hon. Gentleman has talked about—that we have had in our history. We were within a few weeks of the beginning of the best 12 months —1st April to 31st March—that we had ever had. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West last year bestowed the highest accolade he ever can: he quoted his own speeches on the subject. He said that he had been praying for success—