HC Deb 22 March 1979 vol 964 cc1669-70
2. Mr. Radice

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the future prospects for growth in United Kingdom gross national product compared with the average for OECD countries.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Denis Healey)

I ask my hon. Friend to await publication of the Government's economic forecast with the Budget on April 3.

Mr. Radice

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree with the Government-TUC statement that the faster we can bring down the rate of inflation, the more likely we are to achieve a European rate of economic growth?

Mr. Healey

Yes, I think the single most important aspect of the statement to which my hon. Friend referred was the agreement between the Government and the TUC that while we may aim at European growth rates, we shall not achieve them unless we achieve the inflation rates which are common among our European competitors.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Since there is now general acceptance that there is an inescapable relationship between the growth of GNP and the availability of national energy supplies, will the Chancellor say upon which premises his forecasts are based?

Mr. Healey

I have not announced a forecast. If the hon. Member is asking about the likely availability of energy this year, I remind him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy undertook, with other representatives at the International Energy Association meeting, that we would aim at a 5 per cent. cut in the use of oil in this country. However, in our case that will be made up by increased coalburn and by other methods which will be announced to the House in due course.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor mentioned his Budget. Will he give an assurance that the industrial dispute now in progress will not in any way interfere with his Budget, with his prophecies or with his estimates, right or wrong?

Mr. Healey

I cannot give such an assurance, as I think my hon. Friend very well knows.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The Chancellor will have noticed yesterday's report from OECD that inflation in the year ahead is likely to run at 12 per cent. or thereabouts and that the growth of domestic product, excluding oil, is likely to be about 1 per cent. Is he aware that manufacturing output in this country is still lower than it was 10 years ago? Is not that a disastrous commentary on the right hon. Gentleman's five-year tenure of office at the Treasury?

Mr. Healey

I read the OECD forecast. As was pointed out by the OECD when it launched the report in Paris, it was compiled a couple of months ago when the outlook for wage inflation was a great deal worse than it has become since the recent Government agreement with the TUC.