Orders of the Day — Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th November 1974.

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Photo of Mr Guy Barnett Mr Guy Barnett , Greenwich 12:00 am, 13th November 1974

At intervals in my speech, I shall want to be mildly critical of the Budget. Having listened to the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), this fact gives me a little cause for concern. As I understood it, the right hon. Gentleman's speech was largely agreeing with the Government policy. I shall find myself at a greater distance from the position that the Government have taken in their financial policy than was the right hon. Gentleman.

However, I congratulate him on one feature of his speech. It was a constructive speech. I welcome that, especially having listened to the Leader of the official Opposition yesterday. His speech, I thought, was a thoroughly disgraceful performance. It was irresponsible. Today's opening speech from the Opposition Front Bench was something of an improvement on that of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) yesterday, for his speech was remarkable from one who fought an election campaign on the basis of the need for national unity and for honesty in politics.

To illustrate my point, I make only one quotation from what he said. Speaking about the CBI survey, the right hon. Gentleman said: Investment is now the worst in the 16 years since the survey has been carried out, except for the immediate period after the July measures of 1966. A 10 per cent. fall in 1975 is what is expected as a result of that survey, and 15 months ago the, forecasts were the highest ever on record. That is what the present Government have managed to do in 15 months to investment prospects in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November 1974; Vol. 881. c. 285.] If the Leader of the Opposition were here, I know that he would recall that the Labour Government have not been in power for 15 months. We have had a Labour Government for barely nine months. The right hon. Gentleman will also be aware that, between the survey published by the CBI last year and the one this year, we have had a massive oil crisis. He failed, unfortunately, even to mention that yesterday. We have also had the three-day week and a period of confrontation. Both have a good deal to do with the situation which he attempted to describe.

What disturbs me is that the right hon. Gentleman chose the CBI survey to illustrate the case that he was attempting to make, instead of quoting the actual figures of the situation as they are published. I looked up those figures, and they make very interesting reading. They demonstrate that, since Labour came to power, and certainly during the first two quarters of this year, the investment rate in manufacturing industry has compared very favourably with the situation during the whole of 1973. If a graph were drawn, it would show that with Labour's return to power—although the Government do not pretend to accept full responsibility at this stage—investment in manufacturing industry was restored for the first time to roughly the level which obtaind when my right hon. and hon. Friends left office in 1970.