HC Deb 01 April 1976 vol 908 cc1555-7
4. Mr. Lawson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his best estimate of the public expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product during the calendar year 1975.

Mr. Joel Barnett

Provisionally, 59 per cent.

Mr. Lawson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the provisional figure is, if anything, on the low side, and that for the coming year it is likely to be higher? Is he further aware that it is for this reason and no other that it would be highly irresponsible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce any net reductions in taxation in his Budget?

Mr. Barnett

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will note the hon. Member's advice.

Mr. Skinner

Does my right hon. Friend agree with the Home Secretary, who says that if the percentage goes over 60 there are dangers for a pluralist democracy?

Mr. Barnett

I do not necessarily agree with that statement. Both Norway and Sweden, which are excellent social democracies, have higher levels, although they also have very much higher levels of GDP, which I hope we shall be able to obtain if we continue to pursue our present policies, with my hon. Friend's support.

Mr. Gow

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that during the past three years public expenditure has increased by 20 per cent. while output has increased by 2 per cent.? What forecast does he make for the next three years, assuming he will still be in office?

Mr. Barnett

I am surprised the hon. Member asks that question. We put this information in the White Paper and told him precisely what it was. I have no doubt that this Government will be in office over the next three years and, indeed, very much longer, and that our position will improve considerably.

6. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he proposes to revise the present public expenditure White Paper in the next six months.

Mr. Joel Barnett

As explained in paragraph 33 of the White Paper, we shall be ready to modify and adapt our plans as the general course of the economy and the most important needs of the community require.

Mr. Latham

Would it not be reasonable to re-examine and redraft, as a matter of urgency, a document on which the Government were unable to command a majority in the House?

Mr. Barnett

No, Sir.

Mr. Dalyell

After the pressures of the Budget are over, would Treasury Ministers consider an addendum to the White Paper to reflect, in the light of yesterday's defence debate, the cost of a separate Scottish army, Scottish air force and tartan navy?

Mr. Barnett

I know of my hon. Friend's considerable interest in this matter. I do not see that it would be necessary to issue an addendum to the White Paper to deal with these questions, but if he cares to table a specific Question I shall be glad to see whether we can give him the appropriate answer.

Mrs. Bain

When revising his attitude to public expenditure, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very strong representations from various parts of the community about educational expenditure, particularly in Scotland, where we have to bear 39 per cent. of these cuts? Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it will be necessary for Scotland to expand education in order to train people to take up the positions that we shall have in an independent Scotland?

Mr. Barnett

I hear a lot on these matters from my hon. Friends and I tend to take more notice of their views than of the hon. Lady's. If she looks at the total public expenditure per head in Scotland, she will see that it is considerably more than in the United Kingdom as a whole.

Forward to