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Chancellor Of The Exchequer (Visit To Bonn)

Volume 773: debated on Friday 22 November 1968

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The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Fred Peart)

Mr. Speaker, the House will realise, with the Group of Ten meeting continuing in Bonn this morning, that it is not possible for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make the expected statement to the House this morning.

In these circumstances it has been decided to postpone the discussion of the economic situation which was planned for Monday, and which will be the subject of a further business statement.

The debate on Monday, the 3rd allotted Supply day, will be on monopolies and mergers.

The House recognises that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot be here, but I must press the right hon. Gentleman a little on this, on two particular points. First, is it the intention of the Government that a statement should he made on behalf of the Government during the course of this sitting? We really must have an answer to that question.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note that we shall expect on Monday, whatever is said today, a very full and complete statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

As I have explained, the talks are still going on. If they are completed before the House adjourns—I will certainly note what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman—there would be the possibility of a statement—

—today, if the talks are completed and if there is a statement emerging.

On the second point, I will certainly discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he returns, the valid point which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman.

If the talks are finished in time, and a statement is to be made, then, in view of the nature of our proceedings, can the right hon. Gentleman say at what sort of time it will be possible to interrupt the proceedings for the statement to be made?

I appreciate all the difficulties. Obviously, if there can be a statement today a statement will be made, but would it be possible to consider—I realise that this would not be the normal way; far from it—that a statement be issued tomorrow morning, in view of the speculation which is likely to continue over the weekend?

I thought that I gave a clear answer to the right hon. Gentleman, who put what I thought was a constructive question.

The Leader of the House realises that a statement of this importance must be made in the House of Commons first, and not through what I might call "official leaks". If a statement is made, he will agree that it should be given at the earliest possible opportunity to the House. He will appreciate that the House will wish a debate on the economic situation and that that should have precedence over any other matters down for next week?

As Leader of the House I am, naturally, aware of the importance of the House and of its interest in this matter, and I replied to the right hon. Gentleman in those terms.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we are much obliged to him for giving us an opportunity during the weekend for reflection upon the international financial situation, and that it is quite obvious now that these currency questions are not due to the wickedness of the Labour Government?

Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Foreign Exchange is still closed?

In view of the importance of the forthcoming statement, will my right hon. Friend appreciate that, if and when such a statement is made today, and, obviously, it cannot be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer while he is at the meeting in Bonn, the statement should be made by the Prime Minister, and that an issue such as this should not be relegated to anyone below their status, because what is being discussed in Bonn concerns the future of the economy of the country for many years to come?

I note what my hon. Friend has said. I have replied to previous questions on this.

Does the Leader of the House appreciate the damage which is liable to occur to the United Kingdom economy if speculation about a further squeeze and freeze continues unabated? Does he also appreciate the danger to the House and to the country of apparently having to wait for decisions from Bonn before any decisions about United Kingdom measures are announced here?

My right hon. Friend and his colleagues must be in the closest touch with what is going on in Bonn. What is the latest news about progress? Does he think that any Minister will be able to make a statement today?

I cannot tell until I know what finally emerges from Bonn. As I said in reply to a previous question, a statement will be made as soon as possible.