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

News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
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

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star