From 1981 to 1989 the British economy experienced eight years of sustained growth at the annual average rate over 3%. However, subsequently Britain and other major industrialized nations were severely affected by recession. In Britain growth slowed to 0.6% in 1990, and in 1991 gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 2.3%. GDP fell in 1992 as a whole by 0.4%, but it rose slightly in the second half of the year. The recovery strengthened during the first part of 1993; with GDP in the second quarter being 2% higher than a year earlier; the European Commission expected Britain to be the fastest growing of all major European economies in 1993 and1994.
Recent indications that the recovery is under may include:
- an increase in manufacturing output;
- a steady upward trend in retail sales;
- increases in new car registrations;
- record levels of exports;
- increased business and consumer confidence; and
- signs of greater activity in the housing market.
The Governments policy is to ensure sustainable economic growth through low inflation and sound public finances. The Governments economic policy is set in the context of a medium-term financial strategy, which is revived each year. Within this strategy, monetary and fiscal policies are designed to defeat inflation. Short-term interest rates remain the essential instrument of monetary policy.
Macroeconomic policy is directed towards keeping down the rate of inflation as the basis for sustainable growth, while micro-economic policies seek to improve the working of markets and encourage enterprise, efficiency and flexibility through measures such as privatization, deregulation and tax reforms.
The economy is now benefiting from substantially lower interest rates. In September 1993 base interest rates were at 6%. They had been cut by 9 percentage points since October 1990, and were at their lowest since 1977.
Private enterprises generate over three-quarters of total domestic income. Since 1979 the Government has privatized 46 major businesses and reduced the state-owned sector of industry by about two-thirds. The Government is taking measures to cut unnecessary regulations imposed on business, and runs a number of schemes which provide direct assistance or advice to small and medium-sized businesses.
In some sectors a small number of large companies and their subsidiaries are responsible for a substantial proportion of total production, notably in the vehicle, aerospace and transport equipment industries. Private enterprises account for the greater part of activity in the agricultural, manufacturing, construction, distributive, financial and miscellaneous service sectors. The private sector contributed 75% of total domestic final expenditure in 1992, general government 24 % and public corporations 1%.
About 250 British industrial companies in the latest reporting period each had an annual turnover of more than £500 million. The annual turnover of the biggest company, British Petroleum, makes it the llth largest industrial grouping in the world and the second largest in Europe. Five British firms are among the top 25 European Community companies.
The service industries, which include finance, retailing, tourism and business services, contribute about 65% of gross domestic product and over 70% of employment. Britain is responsible for some 10% of the worlds exports of services; overseas earnings from services amounted to 30% of the value of exports of manufactures in 1992. The number of employees in services rose from over 13 million in 1982 to 15.5 million by the end of 1992, much of the rise being accounted for by growth in parttime (principally female) employment.
Average real disposable income per head increased by nearly three-quarters between 1971 and 1990 and this was reflected in a rise in consumer spending of financial, personal and leisure services and on the maintenance and repair of consumer durables. Demand for British travel, hotel and catering services rose as real incomes in Britain and other countries increased. The spread of home ownership, particularly during the 1980s, increased demand for legal and state agency services.
Britain is a major financial centre, housing some of the worlds leading banking, insurance, securities, shipping, commodities, futures, and other financial services and markets. Financial services are an important source of employment and overseas earnings. Business services include advertising, market research, management consultancy, exhibition and conference facilities, computing services and auction houses.
By the year 2000, tourism is expected to be the worlds biggest industry, and Britain is one of the worlds leading tourist destinations. The industry is Britains second largest, employing nearly 7% of the workforce. Retailing is also a major employer and Britain has an advanced distribution network. An important trend in retailing is the growth of out-of-town shopping centres.
The computing services industry continues to be one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, and information technology is widely used in retailing and financial services.
A notable trend in the services sector is the growth of franchising, an operation in which a company owning the rights to a particular form of trading licenses them to franchises, usually by means of an initial payment with continuing royalties. The main areas include cleaning services, film processing, print shops, hair-dressing and cosmetics, fitness centres, courier delivery, car rental, engine tuning and servicing, and fast food retailing. It is estimated that franchisings share of total retail sales is over 3%, a figure which is likely to increase.
The strength of the regular armed forces, all volunteers, was nearly 271,000 in mid-1993 133,000 in the Army, 79,300 in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and 58,500 in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. There were 18,800 women personnel 7,500 in the Army, 6,800 in the RAF, and 4,400 in the Royal Navy.
British forces main military roles are to:
- ensure the protection and security of Britain and its dependent territories;
- ensure against any major external threat to Britain and its allies; and
- contribute towards promoting Britains wider security interests through the maintenance of international peace and security.
Most of Britains nuclear and conventional forces are committed to NATO and about 95% of defence expenditure to meeting its NATO responsibilities. In recognition of the changed European security situation, Britains armed forces are being restructured in consultation with other NATO allies.
Under these plans, the strength of the armed forces is being cut by 22%, leaving by the mid-1990s some 119,000 in the Army, 70,000 in the RAF and 52,500 in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. This involves reductions in main equipment of:
- three Tornado GR1 squadrons, four Phantom squadrons, two Buccaneer squadrons and part of a squadron of Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft;
- 12 submarines, nine destroyers and frigates and 13 mine
- countermeasures ships; and
- 327 main battle tanks.
Civilian staff employed by the Ministry of Defence will be reduced from 169,100 in 1991 to 135,000.
As a member of NATO, Britain fully supports the Alliances current strategic concept, under which its tasks are to:
- help to provide a stable security environment, in which no country is able to intimidate or dominate any European country through the threat or use of force;
- serve as a transatlantic forum for Allied consultations affecting member states vital interests; deter from aggression and defend member states against military attack; and
- preserve the strategic balance within Europe.
THE PRESS, RADIO AND TELEVISION
National Daily and Sunday Papers.
The British buy more newspapers than any other people except Swedes and the Japanese. The daily press differs in two obvious ways from that of any similar western European country. First, all over Britain most people read “national” papers, based in London, which altogether sell more copies than all eighty-odd provincial papers combined. Second, there is a striking difference between the five “quality” papers and the six mass-circulation popular “tabloids”.
These characteristics are still more salient with the Sunday press. Almost no papers at all are published in Britain on Sundays except “national” ones: six “popular” and five “quality” based in London. Three appear on Sundays only; the others are associated with dailies which have the same names but different editors, journalists and layouts. The “quality” Sunday papers devote large sections to literature and the arts. They have colour supplements and are in many ways more like magazines than newspapers. They supply quite different worlds of taste and interest from the “popular” papers.
Scotland has two important “quality” papers, “The Scotsman” in Edinburgh and the “Glasgow Herald”.
The dominance of the national press reflects the weakness of regional identity among the English. The gap in quality is not so much between Labour and Conservative, as between levels of ability to read and appreciate serious news presented seriously. Of the five quality morning papers only “The Daily Telegraph” is solidly Conservative; nearly all its readers are Conservatives. “The Times” and “Financia