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National Plan

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 25 November 1965

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13.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will provide input/output tables which show the relationship between the various industries covered by the National Plan and reconcile the figures given for each industry.

Yes, Sir; a paper will shortly be published by the Department of Economic Affairs describing the techniques used in drawing up the Plan, and this will contain the input/output tables for 1970.

14.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs why the questionnaire which forms the foundation of the National Plan did not ask businessmen, who were providing answers on the basis of an arbitrary assumed rate of growth in the economy, whether they considered the figures they gave for their sectors were feasible.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the questionnaire did not contain this question specifically? Would he further agree that the figures produced on the assumption that they were feasible have not been substantiated?

I would not have answered "It did" if the answer should have been "It did not". It did. Industries were asked, and now I quote:

"To take account of all reference to difficulties likely to be encountered in reaching the estimated level of output."
That obviously refers to feasibility.

Does the First Secretary realise that the questionnaire was subjected to very serious criticism by all commentators, both for what was in it and for what was left out? If, as we understand from the debate on the Plan, he is not going to have a questionnaire next year, what form of inquiry does he propose shall take its place?

It was criticised severely by commentators who had not read it, less severely by those who had, and hardly at all by industry, which was asked to fill up the questionnaire. Only yesterday I was present at one of the economic development committee meetings, attended by one of our largest industries. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is quite wrong. On the question of what we are going to do this year we are not, as I explained in the Plan debate, going to roll the whole exercise forward. We shall be filling in those parts which were not as full in the first year as we would have liked them to be. We shall be taking account of changes in the year, and the necessary questions for that purpose will be asked.

16.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what are the other means, referred to in the National Plan, which the Government may use to make sure that total national profits do not get out of step with wages and salaries, taking one year with another.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that he is more likely to gain general acceptance of the National Plan is he stresses its positive aspect, which is to increase productivity, and that productivity will not increase unless it is profitable to increase it? Rather than seeming to decry profits, would it not be wiser to concentrate upon the uses to which they are put? Does he not agree that one of the most useful purposes is that of reducing prices?

I welcome the conversion of the hon. Gentleman, and I commend what he has said to the attention of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell).