Oral Answers to Questions — Industrial Strategy

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th December 1975.

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Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway 12:00 am, 4th December 1975

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Secretary of State for Industry and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of industrial strategy.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer's stated policy is to reduce public expenditure and the Government's deficit borrowing to make room for investment, will the Government not seriously reconsider their nationalisation programme? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that public ownership in itself is not productive investment? It can be inflationary and it will certainly increase Government debt.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I have little hope of seeking to educate the hon. Member in these matters. I refer him to what I said on this specific question in the debate on the Gracious Speech.

Photo of Mr Mike Thomas Mr Mike Thomas , Newcastle upon Tyne East

Will my right hon. Friend attempt to continue the education of hon. Members opposite by explaining to them that there are differences between good public expenditure and bad public expenditure? [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

These noises may be very good for the lungs, but they take up time.

Photo of Mr Mike Thomas Mr Mike Thomas , Newcastle upon Tyne East

Will my right hon. Friend wipe the smiles off the faces of Opposition Members by explaining that on the Government side we are quite clear there will be no cutting of good public expenditure for the sheer ideological sake of it?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

There is no difference between Government money provided in subsidies to the shipbuilding or aircraft industries when they are privately owned and the same money being supplied under public ownership. [Hon. Members: "Compensation."] If hon. Members opposite want to make a case for lower compensation, they are free to do so.

This is a matter which the House must debate in detail in dealing with the legislation. My hon. Friend is absolutely right on the general issue that he raised. Those who talk about cutting expenditure generally have the duty—I have been pleading for them to exercise it for a year—to tell the House what they would cut.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

When are we to have more details about the industrial strategy? At the moment all we know is that it is not a strategy but an approach, and no one is being very industrious in working it out. At the NEDC meeting yesterday the Government were asked for more details about the strategy, so when may we know—or has it already gone the way of the National Plan?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Apart from the little crack at the end, the right hon. Lady is being perfectly fair. She may recall that when the original statement on the NEDC meeting of 5th November was made to the House we said that in December we would carry the matter further—that was done this week, under the chairmanship of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and that we would begin to identify the various sectors at the meeting in January. I know that the right hon. Lady is a little impatient on this matter, but I am sure that she will be satisfied that progress is being made, particularly since nothing was done on this subject in the three and a half years before we came into office.