UK policy co-ordination: saying no and having lunch

I’ve been reading up about His Majesty’s Treasury, with a view to a piece of research, and this week finished Samuel Beer’s short 1956 book, Treasury Control. There’s much in it for those who believe in the existence of an age-old ‘Treasury View’. Gladstone is quoted as saying ‘the saving of candle ends’ was “very much the measure of a good Secretary of the Treasury.” Winston Churchill’s view in 1929 was that the State can as a general rule never creat additional employment was a ‘steadfast’ “orthodox Treasury view.” Beer argues the Treasury’s role is not to co-ordinate across departments, but simply to say No, and comments, “Is it not a little odd that so Gladstonian an institution as the Treasury should become the agency for guiding and controlling state intervention in the economy?” Economic policy co-ordination at that time, he reckoned, came about through Oxbridge networks and “lunch tables of the clubs of Pall Mall.”



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