Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1973.

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Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford 12:00 am, 12th March 1973

I take a certain share of responsibility for this. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that I would have been economically right to have been expansionary in the 1970 Budget. I do not think that I would have been necessarily politically right because the country had been very soured in its opinion about pre-election give-away Budgets by its experience in 1954, 1955 and 1959. But I have no doubt, with the benefit of hindsight, that economically I should have been somewhat more expansionary.

But, although clearly 1969 was a good year, and the beginning of 1970 and the second half of 1970 were very good from the balance of payments point of view—that was not what hon. Members opposite, and particularly the Prime Minister, were saying at the time of the General Election, but it was true—we had recently emerged from a very difficult tunnel. But I give the hon. Gentleman the point with the greatest pleasure. I should and, with the benefit of hindsight, would have been more expansionary. But that does not begin to excuse the waste of time during which we had endless mini-Budgets as well as the 1971 Budget.

The Chief Secretary's statement, let alone the Chancellor of the Exchequer's mini-Budget and Budget, was made nine months after the election and 11 months after the Budget in 1970. The Government were continuing to go in the wrong direction. With foresight, expansion should have started at an earlier stage, and I could have had something to do with it. But, having persisted in the policy of holding back the economy throughout the whole of the end of 1970, well through into 1971, and allowing it to get into the position in which unplanned and dangerous increases in public expenditure looked as though they were necessary, there was no excuse for panic measures to get out of the difficult position.