HC Deb 06 July 1971 vol 820 cc1109-10
11. Mr. Dykes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what rate of growth of real resources in the economy he now anticipates for 1972–73.

Mr. Barber

It has not been the practice to put forward forecasts of growth for periods beyond about one year ahead.

Mr. Dykes

I realise that, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I understand his difficulties with the economic review now taking place. Does not he agree that the estimates given in earlier speeches, albeit positively extravagant and dynamic compared with the annual rates of growth to which we became accustomed in the 5½ years of the previous Government, are very modest in comparison with those of other leading industrial countries? Could he not undertake to prime the pump just a little more?

Mr. Barber

I have already given the figures of the growth of G.D.P. in answer to the previous Question. It is true that many of our competitors over the years have been growing at a much faster rate than we have. The annual growth target for the E.E.C. countries for 1971–75 is 5.5 per cent. I should add, in answer to the direct point my hon. Friend raised, that if Britain in the 1960s had shared the average growth rate of the E.E.C. our national income would now be at least £10,000 million more than it is.

Mr. Shore

Instead of making absurd propaganda points about the Common Market, will the right hon. Gentleman turn his mind to the question put to him? Cannot he give the House a revised estimate of growth not only over the period of the short-term forecast, which has been given before, but also over the period of three to four years ahead, which was the practice of his predecessor?

Mr. Barber

The right hon. Gentleman will know, if he recalls those happy days which he spent at the Department of Economic Affairs, that while longer-term projections are prepared on various assumptions of the trend rate of growth over a number of years, these are mainly for planning public expenditure and do not involve forecasting growth in particular years. There has been no change in that respect.

Mr. Marquand

Has the Chancellor seen the recent article by Peter Jay in The Times Business News, which suggested that if the economy grew fast enough in 1972–73, to have anything remotely like full employment we should be back in the severe balance of payments difficulties? What is his estimate of the likely balance of payments consequences of full employment in 1972–73?

Mr. Barber

I expect a substantial surplus on the balance of payments current account this year. I have not read Mr. Peter Jay's article.