However, according to Hansard, he asked then
Chancellor Gordon Brown the following question on 13th November 2003:
"On the housing market, is not the brutal truth that with investment, exports and manufacturing output stagnating or falling, the growth of the British economy is sustained by consumer spending pinned against record levels of personal debt, which is secured, if at all, against house prices that the Bank of England describes as well above equilibrium level?
"If the Bank of England is correct in its expectations of a market correction and rising interest rates, what action will the Chancellor take on the problem of consumer debt, which is rapidly rising, with 8 million annual visits from the bailiff?"
Gordon Brown replied: "The honourable gentleman has been writing articles in the
newspapers, as reflected in his contribution, that spread alarm,
without substance, about the state of the British economy.
"As the Bank
of England said yesterday, consumer spending is returning to trend. The
Governor said: 'there is no indication that the scale of debt problems
have… risen markedly in the last five years.' He also said that the
fraction of household income used up in debt service is lower than it
"I suggest that the honourable gentleman look at the overall picture
of the British economy.
"Yes, during the period of world downturn, when
the rest of the European economy was not growing at all, it was
necessary for both consumer spending and public investment to
contribute to the growth that we have achieved in Britain; but he can
see that business investment and manufacturing output are starting to
return and that the export position will improve over the next period.
"What the Bank of England said yesterday about the prospects for growth,
compared with what people said when we gave our Budget forecast in
April, suggests that we have been right about the prospects for growth
in the British economy, and the honourable gentleman has been wrong."