Is it not alarming, at a time when the business community is already demoralised as a result of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's anti-business Budget, that the Secretary of State for Industry should contribute to the nation's crisis of confidence by threatening to demolish the rest of the free enterprise sector? Will the Prime Minister dismiss the saboteurs on his Front Bench, or will he resign to make way for a Government that will be strong enough to solve the country's problems?
The largest factor contributing to the reduction of confidence this year was the three-day week, for which the Conservative Party was entirely responsible.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if there is any demoralisation in the House it is among Conservative Members who are trying to find a bogey man? Does he also agree that 75 per cent. of the country's economy is run by private enterprise and that during the last two decades this country has not progressed as fast as have other Western countries because of inadequate management and investment in industry? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that in future plans we must make certain that industry is run on behalf of the people?
I agree with my hon. Friend that the Conservative Party must have a bogey man in every election. Clearly my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) will be the bogey man in the next election. My right hon. Friend has simply reiterated the proposals which were approved overwhelmingly at last year's Labour Party conference, published in our manifesto and included in the Queen's Speech.
Will the Lord President undertake that the promised Green Paper will be published in the lifetime of this Parliament and that when it comes[Interruption]—it will specify not only those industries which are thought appropriate for take-over by the National Enterprise Board but also those companies—[Interruption]—which are thought appropriate for participation in the so-called planning agreement system?
Will the Lord President undertake that his promised Green Paper will be published during the lifetime of the present Parliament and that, when it does come, it will give the details not only of those industries which are thought appropriate for take-over by the National Enterprise Board but also of all the companies which the Government envisage could properly take part in the so-called planning agreement system?
As the Opposition are already fighting their election campaign on the stunt of State control, which will backfire in much the same way as the "Reds under the bed" stunt at the last election, will my right hon. Friend be prepared to call their bluff and recommend going to the country next month?
No, Sir, I cannot promise that, but before any legislation comes before the House it will have an opportunity, perhaps in the autumn for two days, to discuss the proposals fully.
In view of the fact that this is a serious issue involving almost the future of our nation, if the two barometers of confidence for industry are first investment and secondly the share price index, is it not wise to look at the rate of investment in the latter part of 1973 and the first quarter of 1974 and at the share index in November last year? Do not those figures indicate that the lack of confidence in British industry is related not to the present Government but to the policies of the Conservative Government?
Investment in plant and machinery and in manufacturing industry fell 20 per cent. during those years, and for 1974 it is not likely to be very much better. This is an appalling state of affairs and it is the subject to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry devoted most of his Nottingham speech. The Conservative Party will not apply itself to this problem.
In the absence of the Prime Minister, an absence we all understand, perhaps the Leader of the House could help the House on one matter. Is there no way under Clause 5, subsection (1), or whatever the number is, of the Labour Party's constitution that would enable the Prime Minister to wriggle out of the commitment of the Secretary of State for Industry—in exactly the same way as yesterday in the national interest he wriggled out of commitments in respect of nuclear tests?
From one of the biggest wrigglers in Britain, that is a bit thick. The Prime Minister wriggled out of nothing yesterday. He explained the position of the nuclear deterrent and NATO absolutely clearly. It was the Leader of the Opposition's memory that was defective. My right hon. Friend's proposals have been described in his speeches. We do not want to wriggle out of these things. They are an essential part of our policy and after the next election we shall implement those policies.