The "Financial Statement and Budget Report" forecast for the current account was for a deficit of £6½ billion in 1992 and £9 billion at an annual rate in the first half of 1993. Forecasts for future years are not available.
That reply from the Chief Secretary in no way answers my question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I will ask the question again because that answer demonstrates the Government's dangerous contempt for our balance of trade deficit. Will the Chief Secretary answer the specific question: when will our trade next be in surplus? Will he tell the House whether he agrees with the advice of the President of the Board of Trade to the Conservative Government not to argue that the balance of trade deficit is easy to manage and would not be a problem for the Government to cope with?
The hon. Gentleman's substantive question was answered in what I said. I told him that we made no forecasts beyond the first half of 1993. He asked about the sustainability or manageability of the current account deficit. At about 1 per cent. of gross domestic product it is indeed sustainable. At present we are seeing a substantial inflow of investment into this country. There is strong investment in particular from the United States and Japan, which tends to demonstrate that there is no difficulty in funding the deficit.
Although that inward investment is particularly welcome, does my right hon. Friend agree that in terms of Britain's balance of payments our overseas investment into other countries has increased in value in the past year by substantially more than our trade imbalance?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. He will recognise that that inward investment helps the very significant growth that there has been in our exports. Our growth in manufactured exports is showing up now compared with world trade. During the 1980s the proportion of our manufactures fell as part of world trade. Since 1988, there has been a marked increase.
I made this perfectly clear to the hon. Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Hall). We have produced a forecast for 1993. Our export volume is extremely high. We are now seeing some increase in imports which, because they tend to centre around basic materials, provide some evidence of recovery which the hon. Gentleman should welcome.