Below is the text of Mr Major’s written Parliamentary Answer on Public Expenditure on 18th July 1988.
Mr. Gordon Brown To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish in the Official Report a table showing for the period 1982–83 to 1990–91 (a) the public expenditure planning total on the definitions of each of the public expenditure White Papers published since 1979, (b) the general Government expenditure total on the basis of the definitions of each of the White Papers, (c) gross domestic product on the basis taken in each of the White Papers and (d) the public expenditure gross domestic product ratio in the basis of the definitions of each of the White Papers, indicating whether the numerator was based upon the planning total or general Government expenditure.
Mr. Major There have been no significant changes to the definition of the public expenditure planning total or general Government expenditure since 1979. Though the basic concepts have remained unchanged, there have been a number of detailed reclassifications, which are noted in each year’s public expenditure White Paper, which provides a nine-year span of data on consistent definitions. Tables in section 5 of the “Government’s Expenditure Plans 1988–89 to 1990–91” (Cm. 2881) include longer runs of data on a consistent basis. An article in the August 1985 issue of Economic Trends provided detailed information on “Measuring Public Expenditure” and in particular gave long runs of data for public expenditure as a percentage of GDP on the various different bases which had been used in the past. It also explained and gave figures for general Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP, the concept which has been in use by the Treasury since the 1985 Autumn Statement. Further information on “Long term trends in public expenditure” was given in the October 1987 issue of Economic Trends. It would involve a disproportionate amount of work to show for each year in the period requested what the planning total or general Government expenditure would have been using the precise classifications in force for each year’s White Paper.