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Gross National Product

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 26 May 1977

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12. Mr.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is satisfied with the growth in gross national product.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the improving balance of payments figures and the PSBR forecast, to which reference has been made today, mean that we should be able to expand the economy rather faster later in the year?

A few moments ago my right hon. Friend said something like that, but it is a little early to decide. We need rather more facts about the way in which the economy is moving and about what kind of pay deal we shall have after 31st July before coming to any conclusion on that matter.

Is the Minister aware of the part that United Kingdom, and especially Scottish, agriculture could play in adding to the GNP and lowering the English balance of payments deficit? If so, will he withdraw Treasury objections to immediate and essential cash injections into the livestock sector of that industry?

As the hon. Gentleman will have noted, in the last three months there was not a balance of payments deficit. But everything that we are doing, in the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish economies, will be beneficial in due course, to both the balance of payments and the economy generally.

Will my right hon. Friend explain why it is that an increase in the growth of GNP now seems to have a much lower priority in the Government's aims than it had a few years ago?

It does not have a lower priority. However, there is no point in going for a massive increase in GNP which is not sustainable. That is the problem. I am as much in favour of rapid growth in the GNP as ever I was, but there is no point in having a short burst of increase and then having the economy brought to a grinding halt, as has happened in the past.