Public Expenditure

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th January 1974.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West 12:00 am, 29th January 1974

I shall not comment at this stage on particular programmes. What I said was that public expenditure was under control. I clearly said that the rate at which it was growing was under control. I made that comparison. The hon. Gentleman no doubt will wish to raise the question of individual programmes at a later stage.

I turn now to the economic events which led up to the Chancellor's statement on 17th December in which he announced the reductions of £1,200 million in 1974–75 expenditure which are condemned in the amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.

The first point is that the Government did not create the difficulties which led to the Chancellor's action. In the later part of last year—but before the oil crisis and before the disastrous miners' dispute began—the Government's economic strategy was working out well. The independent National Institute of Economic and Social Research described it as an almost complete success.

The strategy was for aggregate output to level off to a sustainable growth and for the rise in consumer expenditure and public expenditure to slow down, thereby leaving room for private industrial investment and exports to continue growing rapidly. The facts show that this was working out as planned. The facts are there for all to see. The volume of manufacturing investment rose by nearly 12 per cent. between the second half of 1972 and the third quarter of 1973, and exports of goods and services rose by 10½ per cent. Domestic consumption, on the other hand, rose by only 2¾ per cent. I remind hon. Members that the TUC and the CBI were fully in support of the growth policies being applied, and said so on a number of occasions.