Most hon. Members who have been present for most of the debate realise that the key question we have been asking ourselves is: does a large balance of payments deficit really matter? The Chancellor has berated those who have said that Britain is in a balance of payments crisis, describing them as prisoners of the past. The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) repeated the phrase. He said that the trade deficit exists, but that it has been privatised, so it is up to the private sector to correct it with more self-discipline. I have news for the Chancellor: he is a prisoner of the past, and I shall explain why.
I was a civil servant in the Department of Trade and Industry in 1972 and 1973, during the first Barber boom. There were raging arguments between Treasury and Department of Trade and Industry civil servants on precisely the same issue: did the balance of payments deficit that we were running then really matter? The Treasury produced the wonderful argument that it did not matter, for the first time ever, because we had floated the pound, so it was up to the private sector to adjust, self-correct, and so on, because the pound would go down.