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National Economic Development Council

Volume 885: debated on Thursday 6 February 1975

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asked the Prime Minister upon what general criteria he decides whether to take the chair personally at a meeting of the NEDC.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is Chairman of NEDC, but I normally expect to take the chair three or four times a year. There are no general criteria on which I base my decision to do so on any particular occasion.

Would those criteria permit the Prime Minister to chair a meeting to consider the recent horrifying report of the little NEDC for the building industry, that this year there will be a sharp fall in private housing and new construction generally?

The little NEDC and the Government have been very active on that matter. The hon. Gentleman will recall that when we took office rather less than a year ago it was clear that house building would fall to the lowest level since 1946, just after the war, at a time of chronic shortage of materials and skilled manpower. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware of the statement, since the NEDC report was drafted, made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, showing that the Government are taking the housing crisis seriously whereas our predecessors did not.

My right hon. Friend is a relatively busy man, but if he finds time away from the NEDC and all these other matters, will he take a trip to see the BBC, as a kind of non-aligned representative, regarding the carving up of the necessary television time for the ballot during the next five days? Does he share my view that, as this is International Women's Year, the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) should have equal time with the other four candidates together, or does he think that it ought to be on the basis of carving it up between all of them?

The Question relates to the National Economic Development Council, and no other subject. However, even if my hon. Friend had stretched his well-known ingenuity to the limit in getting in a supplementary question, I do not think that he could have produced one which was further from the original Question, and it does not call for an answer by me.