It is now just 30 years since luckless Denis Healey - the right Chancellor at the wrong time if ever there was - had to scurry back to his desk at the Treasury from Heathrow, where he was about to board a plane to attend a World Bank jamboree in Manila. A rampant sterling crisis required his presence that morning.

In the event, not even Mr Healey's powers of reassurance could steady the markets. He had to go cap in hand to the IMF for a bail-out. He got the money, but only after the IMF's bailiffs had dictated a list of painful spending cuts on the hapless Labour Government.

A reminder of those dire events came yesterday from Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England in a session with the Commons Treasury Committee.

He congratulated the British political class, along with the CBI, even the trade unions, on having accepted the lesson of 1976. No-one has since tried to play the protectionist card, though there were times when it could have won easy votes.

Mr King's message is that we are all hugely better off as a result. That is undoubtedly so. Britain is a trading nation. Subsidies could never have preserved our heavy industrial base of 30 years ago a gainst today's global competition.

The Thatcher Government was right to abandon the attempt - though it hardly seemed so at the time.

The issue Mr King did not face yesterday is that as a trading nation in a global economy we run up what Mr Charles Clarke might describe as a "systemic" deficit. We fill a monstrous trade gap by attracting foreign capital to Britain.

This year foreign takeovers of British companies are fuel-ling the stock market as never before. It is an aspect of globalisation we don't expect the Government to stop.

We are not like those faint-hearted continentals - or even the Americans when Dubai's takeover of P&O was handing American ports to an Arab owner.

If the family silver is going overseas we console ourselves thinking that Johnny Foreigner is probably paying too much for it. He often installs better managers, too, we are told. And foreign-owned companies usually pay better wages. Anyway, we need the money.

Mr King's remarks came not long after the Government had let it be known that it won't try to make a special case of Centrica if the Russian Gazprom makes a play for it.

That is at least a debatable issue. Gazprom, after all, is for practical purposes an arm of the Russian state.

It was an arm President Putin used last winter to exert brutal political pressure on a stroppy Government in Ukraine, and a number of Gazprom's European customers were briefly cut off in the process. Whether we really want such a company to own Britain's largest supplier of gas is not simply a question of free trade versus protection. It is a political, arguably strategic, issue.

Then what about the (hopefully distant) prospect of the Spanish Ferrovial winning BAA with so much borrowed money that the depleted balance sheet cannot fund the development of Britain's key airports?