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By B. W. E. Alford

The controversy over "Britain in decline" nonetheless rages within the educational, political and public spheres. during this concise undergraduate booklet, B.W.E. Alford examines Britain's financial improvement inside of a framework of political, social and cultural elements, together with themes corresponding to the alleged strategy of deindustrialization, the position of sterling, hard work kinfolk and the impression of presidency coverage. Professor Alford offers a transparent and crucial advent to the topic, but exhibits how complicated and deep-rooted are the explanations of the "British Disease."

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Extra info for British Economic Performance, 1945–1975

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Furthermore, all publicly owned industries have, not surprisingly, proved vulnerable to ministerial interference dictated by short-term political expediency [Ashworth, 1986; Hannah, 1982]. To make matters worse, the monopolistic character of the sector has been blatantly exploited by trade unions, though over the longer run this has probably resulted in major job losses since most of the industries are subject to competition in the form of alternative goods. For example, over the period rail transport lost heavily to road transport (though assessment is complicated by problems of whether road transport paid the full costs of its operation) and more recently coal has lost to alternative forms of energy supply.

Within the government political judgements on the issue were somewhat confused - Cripps, in 31 particular, saw devaluation 'as an act of foreign policy quite as much as of economic policy' [ibid, 141]; and the final decision was made by three junior ministers outside the Cabinet. It is, moreover, an irony that these ministers (Gaitskell, Jay, Wilson) were at the same time preparing a Full Employment Bill which assumed a major capacity for planning within the government machine. So far as the economic aspects of devaluation were concerned, the situation was almost bizarre: there was little understanding of the interaction between devaluation and various parts of domestic economic policy, no careful or considered analysis of the appropriate rate, and no perception of how sterling fitted into the international structure of exchange rates or, more immediately, whether the problem stemmed from the weakness of sterling or the strength of the dollar (see Chapter 6).

It is noticeable, however, that the shift came nowhere near eradicating disparities in regional employment opportunities which were heavily influenced by the high degree of concentration of the old staple industries: thus, at the extremes, unemployment in London and the South-East was 56% of the UK rate in 1973 and in the North 174%. , 1982]. (ii) INVESTMENT The investment record for the period is best placed within an international context. The figures shown in Table IX are broadly 37 Table IX Gross Fixed Capital Formation per Head of Empluyed Labour Force in Manufacturing - UK Compared 1965-75 (Current US $ and exchange rates UK = 100) United Kingdom Belgium France" Germany Italy" Netherlands· Japan Sweden USN 1965 1970 1975 100 168 197 100 203 238 80 170 100 167 365 124 270 218 200 355 100 257 267 1864 1604 309 176 292 293 • Plus other industrial sectors.

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