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Economic Affairs

Volume 885: debated on Thursday 6 February 1975

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asked the Prime Minister if he will transfer to one Minister other than himself overall responsibility for economic affairs.

Does my right hon. Friend recollect the statements that he has made from time to time in support of the four Ministers responsible for industrial investment, trade, prices and wage settlements? Does he agree that now is the time to start planning the economy, that in furtherance of that idea an economic strategy should now be settled and announced, that in furtherance of that, if it is right to plan our domestic economy it must also be right to plan our external trade, and that we must now introduce selective import controls to carry out the policies to which we are committed?

My hon. Friend is right to remind me that I have given full support to my four right hon. Friends and to stress the great importance of investment, which I have done, and which the Government are doing by their actions. I shall be dealing with this matter at some length, with an industrial audience, tomorrow in Lancashire.

Concerning plans for the economy and investment, my hon. Friend will know that two successive meetings of NEDC, one of which I chaired, were specifically devoted to studying the whole problem of increasing investment in this country in both private and public industry, and that some notable advances were secured by NEDC in the discussions last Tuesday.

I believe that import controls and quantitative regulations or any other attempt to solve our problems by the restriction of imports, whether by quantitative quotas or deflation, would simply help to accelerate a downward trend in world trade, from which Britain would be the first to suffer.

If the Prime Minister found it necessary to make a transfer of that kind, may I ask to which Minister he would make the transfer?

Having already answered "No" to the Question, that was not merely a hypothetical question but a non-question.