Government rewrites UK economic history

ECONOMIC HISTORY was rewritten yesterday with the release of new UK national accounts designed to bring us into line with Europe and improve the accuracy of official statistics.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the UK economy has been performing significantly better - particularly in the last decade - than had been thought. Economic growth was stronger, the trade deficit smaller and investment record better than the old official figures indicated.

The net effect of the revisions - which affected records as far back as 1948 - was to raise the level of UK economic growth by an average of 0.2 per cent a year. The most marked improvement came in the last decade, where there were substantial data changes.

The new figures show that the 1991/92 recession finished six months earlier than first thought. Economic growth measured by gross domestic product (GDP) switched from negative to positive in the third quarter of 1992 rather than the first quarter of 1993. As a result, the British economy expanded by 0.1 per cent in 1992. Economists thought the economy had shrunk by 0.5 per cent over the year.

The 1991/92 recession was shallower than first thought, and the subsequent recovery stronger. Using the old method, the sharpest fall in UK growth was in the second quarter of 1991, when the economy contracted by 2.9 per cent. Using the new method, however, the economy contracted by only 2.5 per cent. According to the original ONS numbers, the economy grew by 2.7 per cent in 1995 and 2.2 per cent in 1996. But in yesterday's release, the growth figures were 2.8 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively. The cumulative effect of the changes meant that 1997 GDP, calculated at current market prices, was more than pounds 15bn higher than previously thought.

Recent data on the UK's balance of payments was sharply revised. The current account deficit in the first quarter of the year, for example, was revised down sharply from pounds 3.2bn to pounds 0.5bn. In the second quarter of the year, the current account recorded a surplus of pounds 600m, to the surprise of City analysts.

Dharshini David at HSBC Securities said: "This does suggest that the the Asian crisis and the strong pound did not have quite as much of a detrimental impact as previously thought."

The ONS said there were a variety of reasons for the changes, including the legal requirement to make UK national accounts more like those of our European partners. The so-called European System of Accounts (1995) is different to the current UK system in numerous ways. For example, under ESA, mineral exploration is classified as "investment" not "expenditure", as is computer software. Other changes were designed to improve the reliability of official data, for example by helping eliminate data gaps and double- counting.

Although the new accounts make interesting reading for economic historians, the figures are unlikely to have substantial implications for today's policymakers, according to City economists.

Second-quarter GDP growth was little altered by the revisions. Quarter- on-quarter growth was left unchanged at 0.5 per cent, while the year-on- year rate was revised up 0.4 per cent to 2.6 per year. Manufacturing growth over the quarter was revised up from 0.1 per cent to 0.3 per cent.

Outlook, page 19

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn