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Private Investment

Volume 888: debated on Monday 10 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will give the figure for private industrial investment in 1974 ; and how this compares with 1973.

Capital expenditure by manufacturing industry in 1974 is provisionally estimated at about £3,260 million, at current prices. This represents £2,115 million at 1970 prices—10 per cent. greater than in 1973. This figure relates mainly to private industry, but includes publicly-owned manufacturing concerns.

Is it not clear from those figures that industry was investing more in 1974 than in 1973, contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman has alleged? Will he now publicly admit that the policies of the previous Conservative Government were producing an increase in investment and that it would be wise for him not to interfere with that improvement?

I am afraid that I do not accept that argument, in that the so-called "Barber boom" had come to a halt by the summer of 1973, before the oil crisis. The previous Conservative Government left office following the disaster of the three-day working week and the investment in the pipeline at that time may have continued until the end of the year —but the forecasts for future investment were low when the hon. Gentleman's Government left office.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the figures are an argument for the increased investment in the public sector which he proposes to carry out?

My hon. Friend is quite right. The one sustained area of continued high investment and high investment intention is the public sector. That has come out clearly from the recent NEDC reports. It is our intention to introduce the National Enterprise Board and to make good use of the Conservative Government's Industry Act of 1972. That indicates our view that public sector investment must play a leading part in re-equipping British industry.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that if investment stood high in 1974 as a result of commitments in the pipeline in 1973, it makes nonsense of his attempts to try to blame the Conservatives in 1970 for falling investment which was already planned in 1969?