Orders of the Day — The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:57 pm on 28th November 1989.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Brian Sedgemore Mr Brian Sedgemore , Hackney South and Shoreditch 7:57 pm, 28th November 1989

Yes, it will be "Oh dear" as I quote from the Chancellor again. He then made two statements which, on the Richter scale of economic imbecility, have never been exceeded. He said: I also know that there is no imminent balance of payments crisis". To add insult to injury to that estimable Committee, he said: I simply observe beyond that that if you think that any projections that anybody has produced of any possible payments deficits in the last few weeks represent remotely a crisis in terms of the percentage of GDP compared with what we saw year after year during the 1970s, then I am extraordinarily surprised that you should make that comment. History has recorded that I was right and that the Chancellor was wrong.

I have examined the figures in some detail. In the 1970s, there were balance of payments deficits in six years. But not even in 1974, when oil prices trebled, did the balance of payments deficit reach 4 per cent. of GDP, as it will this year. There were deficits in four other years in the 1970s when Labour was in power—in 1975, when the balance of payments deficit was 1·4 per cent. of GDP, in 1976 when it was 0·8 per cent. of GDP, in 1977 and in 1979. When it comes to a balance of payments deficit, this Chancellor, with deficits of 3·2 per cent. of GDP in 1988 and of 4 per cent. in 1989, is in a mega-league of his own.

Every hon. Member knows what the warranted rate of economic growth is, but because the Chancellor does not, I shall define it for him. It is the sustainable rate of economic growth that Britain can have without moving into a balance of payments deficit. From 1950 to 1970, the warranted rate of economic growth varied between 2·5 per cent. and 3 per cent. of GDP. In the mid-1970s, because of the oil crisis, it fell to 1·5 per cent. In the 1980s, because we found North sea oil, it rose to 3 per cent. Recent simulations have shown that the warranted rate of growth is between 0·5 per cent. and 1 per cent. of GDP. That means that there has been a tragic decline in our manufacturing base. The proof of that lies in the Chancellor's forecast that, in 1990, with virtually no growth and a recession, there will be a £15 billion balance of payments deficit.

That will not end in 1990 or in 1991. The Chancellor is hopeless, helpless and hapless. No wonder we shall be voting against him tonight.