HC Deb 17 June 1982 vol 25 cc1068-9
2. Mr. Latham

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on the level of the public sector borrowing requirement.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Leon Brittan)

Latest estimates suggest that the PSBR outturn for 1981–82 was £8.9 billion. The Budget forecast for 1982–83 was £9.5 billion. I have no reason to change that forecast.

Mr. Latham

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that Treasury predictions on the future level of the PSBR have not always rivalled those of horse racing tipsters for accuracy? Will he carefully bear that in mind before taking any deflationary action, through tax increases, to pay for the Falklands conflict?

Mr. Brittan

I have no doubt that my hon. Friend's knowledge of the accuracy of racing tipsters is much greater than mine. I shall certainly bear in mind the limitations in Treasury forecasts when considering any further action.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

Putting forecasts to one side, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that the latest OECD figures show that our public sector borrowing requirement as a percentage of GNP is about half the equivalent for Germany and barely two-thirds that of Japan—two successful economies? Does that not tend to suggest that we have a far too restrictive financial position?

Mr. Brittan

I do not think that the OECD figures lead to that conclusion. The contrast that I draw is with France. I draw a sharp contrast between the success that we are having emerging from recession compared with the difficulties that France, with a different economic policy which is closer to that supported by Labour Members, now seems to be experiencing.

Mr. Alan Clark

The term PSBR is often used as a synonym and a cover title for public expenditure generally. Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept the suggestion that if he or any people for whom he is responsible—we can compare the various papers on this subject with which the House is sometimes edified—think that they can set their sights on or restrict defence spending to repair defects that may have been thrown up in purchasing and procurement over the last few years, the party, the Services and the public would not accept it?

Mr. Brittan

My hon. Friend is tilting at a windmill that I cannot see.