I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on containing public expenditure within his own office at least. May I ask him whether he associates himself with the view held by some of his colleagues that no further public expenditure cuts are required to contain excessive monetary growth? Is that the right hon. Gentleman's own judgment?
My judgment is that all the economic factors in our society should be taken into account when judging what steps are required to curb any unhealthy excess in monetary growth.
When the right hon. Gentleman claims, as he did in reply to the previous supplementary question, that a minimum lending rate of 15 per cent. is necessary in order to reduce the money supply, whose responsibility is it that the money supply has risen at such a rapid rate in recent months?
At the risk of defying the political conventions of both parties, I must say that the history of the increase in our money supply cannot be looked at over a short cycle of time but has to be looked at over a longer period of time and that the responsibility conies from diverse factors. I do not doubt that there are possibly even imperfections in Government decisions sometimes which play a part in that, but there are many other factors, such as the terms of trade, commodity prices and the like, which play an important part, and they are too many to analyse in the course of a reply to a supplementary question.
May I return to the original Question and ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, because of the shambles which Scottish Office Ministers have made of the Scottish economy, he has plans for taking on board anyone to advise him on how to improve the Scottish enonomy?
Does not my right hon. Friend appreciate that he is a little too modest about his achievements, particularly at the present time? Does he recall that he was quite happy to accept the gratitude and applause at the time when the economic situation was such that the inflation rate was down, for a short period at any rate, to about 8·4 per cent.? As he has been involved in many areas of Government Departments, does he not realise that he, or at least the strategy he has propagated, particularly against import controls, has brought us to this sorry pass? He really should tell us what the Government's present strategy is so that we can be fully aware of their policy.
I had not thought of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) primarily as a source of gratitude or applause, although I am prepared to receive either his or anyone else's comments on this or any other subject. The Government have made their position with regard to import controls clear again and again. For the very best of reasons, including our direct advantage in our international trading position, the Government are firmly against general import controls.