At Budget time in March 2017:
The UK National Debt is estimated to be £1.64 trillion.
Chart D.11t: Recent UK National Debt
Chart D.12t: Recent UK National Debt as Percent GDP
Public Debt in the United Kingdom is principally the debt of the central government.
In 2005 the UK National Debt was less that £0.5 trillion. But then came the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession. The National Debt increased rapidly and went over £1 trillion in 2011. At the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year, the National Debt went over £1.5 trillion.
In terms of Gross Domestic Product the UK National Debt in 2005 was about 38 percent of GDP.
But in the last ten years, in the wake of the Crash of 2008 and subsequent recession, the National has doubled to over 80 percent GDP, but shows signs of leveling out as a percent of GDP.
UK Total Government Debt in the 20th Century
Chart D.13t: UK National Debt Since 1900
The National Debt began the 20th century at about 30 percent of GDP. It jerked above 150 percent in World War I and stayed high. Debt breached 200 percent during World War II. Debt declined to 50 percent of GDP by the 1970s and dipped to 25 percent by 1990. The National Debt began a rapid increase in the aftermath of the worldwide financial crisis of 2008.
UK Total Government Debt since 1692
Chart D.14t: Three Centuries of UK National Debt
The National Debt began when William III engaged a syndicate of City merchants to market an issue of government debt. The syndicate became the Bank of England, and HM government debt began a century-long climb, financing Marlboroughs wars, wars against the French, against the North American colonial rebels, and peaking in 1815 at the end of the Napoleonic Wars at over 200 percent of GDP. After the war the debt entered a century-long decline. Government debt exploded in World War I and again in World War II where it reached the level of 1815 at over 200 percent of GDP. Debt declined below 50 percent of GDP by the 1970s. The financial crisis of 2008 cranked the National Debt up to over 80 percent of GDP.
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Expenditure data since 1983 comes from HM Treasury’s Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis reports.
Detailed table of spending data sources here.
Gross Domestic Product data comes from measuringworth.com.
Central government spending data begins in 1692.
Local authority spending data begins in 1868.
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