HC Deb 25 January 1972 vol 829 cc1180-1
8. Mr. Dykes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what growth rate of gross national product he has calculated for the calendar year 1971 on the figures now available to him what was the equivalent figure for 1970; and what is his estimate now of the growth rate for the financial year 1971–72 compared to the same period a year earlier.

Mr. Barber

If my hon. Friend is concerned about growth, gross domestic product is the more appropriate measure. In the calendar year 1970 G.D.P. grew by 1¾ per cent.. In the financial year 1970–71 it grew by rather less than 1¾per cent. In the period from the first half of 1971 to the first half of 1972 my present estimate is still that it will grow by 4 to 4½ per cent.

Mr. Dykes

Do not these figures and my right hon. Friend's policies completely confirm the success of his strategy so far? Looking beyond the figures, would he care to say whether he feels that, in view of the success of his policy so far, the economy is now capable of growing at a faster rate still?

Mr. Barber

It is true—and nobody will say otherwise or seek to deny this—that the economy is now growing at a rate twice as fast as it was during the period of office of the Labour Government. The simple fact is that, after six years of unprecedented restrictions, it takes time to get the economy growing. We now have a unique opportunity to achieve more rapid expansion which can be sustained over a considerable period of years.

Mr. Joel Barnett

If the right hon. Gentleman is taking credit for his success in planning this increased growth, is he also prepared to accept responsibility for the increase in unemployment to over a million? Could he reconcile the different views expressed by different Ministers that, on the one hand, he has failed to take further action on unemployment because of high wage inflation, and, on the other hand, that he would have taken action if it had not been for the fact he got his forecasts wrong?

Mr. Barber

No, Sir; I have made it crystal clear, without equivocation, that I did not expect unemployment to rise to this level. Of course we accept our responsibility as a Government, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday in the debate, for the high level of unemployment, but the hon. Gentleman must recognise that there are those who take the view that It now appears that with any given level of total output in the economy, we must expect a very much higher level of unemployment than previous experience would have led us to expect. [Interruption.]

I said that there are those who take that view. What I have just said is a quotation from a Labour Party policy document presented to last year's party conference.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order. Is it not the case that one must not quote during Question Time? Yet here we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer making quotations.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think anything said has been out of order.


Mr. Speaker

A little earlier I had to rule, instinctively and quickly, on a point of order put to me by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). My instinct was right. What he said applies to Questions and not to answers.