The Treasury and British Public Policy, 1906-1959

The Treasury and British Public Policy, 1906-1959

The Treasury and British Public Policy, 1906-1959

The Treasury and British Public Policy, 1906-1959


'Magisterial... numerous elegant accounts and judicious assessments... its main strength lies less in the specifics than in the long view and especially in an integrated perspective... no less important for political historians than it is for economic and administrative historians. All discussions of British politics during this period should be informed by it.' -Contemporary British History'George Peden has been working on the Treasury since the 1970s, and in this book he brings together a vast amount of research to provide, if not a definitive history, at least one that will long dominate the field.' -History'Until now we have had no archive-based institutional history of the Treasury. For this reason alone this volume is to be welcomed and is an important contribution which will be referred to widely and will undoubtedly appear on many reading lists. More than this, few are as well placed to have filled this gap as George Peden, given his long-established authority and knowledge of the workings of the Treasury.' -Twentieth Century British History'Anyone who writes on British economic policy in the twentieth-century will need to consult this impressive volume. A major institution now has the study its importance warrants. Given the huge influence of the British Treasury, this authoritative study will be an essential reference tool not only for those examining the more recondite areas of the government's financial business but for those concerned with the broad context of British domestic and overseas policy formulation.' -The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History'Peden handles a mass of material in a masterly way... he has a gently ironic style with a great talent for apt quotation.' -Sir Alan Budd, Times Literary SupplementThis authoritative history of the Treasury provides a new perspective on public policy-making in the twentieth century. It explores the role and functions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the consequent implications for the changing role of the Treasury. As the key department in British government, the Treasury developed growing responsibility for managing the national economy and became increasingly involved in international relations from the time of the First World War. Professor Peden examines the relations between ministers and their official advisers, and the growing influence of economists in Whitehall.


The Treasury has been described as 'the most political of departments'. Treasury control of public expenditure involves participation in decisions as to which policies should be funded, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to decide how to raise taxes or loans to pay for them. in conjunction with the Bank of England, the Treasury is responsible for the soundness of the country's financial system. During the period covered by this book, the Treasury moved from being a department of finance to being an economic ministry, with responsibility for managing the national economy. Finally, in addition to all these direct influences on policy, the Treasury was responsible for the size and efficiency of the Civil Service. the Treasury thus combined a range of functions that in other countries would have been divided between different departments. For example, in the United States there evolved, in addition to the us Treasury, the Bureau of the Budget (for control of expenditure); the Federal Reserve Board (for monetary policy); the Council of Economic Advisers (for co-ordinating economic policy); and the Civil Service Commission.

Historians and political scientists have long been aware of the influence of senior civil servants on policy However, it has not been easy to put that influence in its institutional context. the last comprehensive history of the Treasury by Henry Roseveare in 1969, covered some nine centuries, and devoted just over seventy pages to the period covered by this book. Moreover, Roseveare completed his manuscript too early to be able to make use of the files that became available under the 1967 Public Records Act, which reduced the period for which material from government archives was withheld from the public from fifty years to thirty years. His problem was compounded by the fact that most Treasury files for the pre-1919 period are fragmentary and, until recently

Lord Welby, Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, 1885–94, cited by Lord Bridges, Permanent
Secretary, 1945–56, in id., The Treasury (1966), 41.

See Max Beloff, 'The Whitehall Factor: the Role of the Higher Civil Service', in Gillian Peele and
Chris Cook (eds.), The Politics of Reappraisal, 1918–1939 (1975), 209–31; D. C. Watt, Personalities and Policies:
Studies in the Formulation of British Foreign Policy in the 20th Century (1965).

Henry Roseveare, The Treasury: the Evolution of a British Institution (1969).

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