The Treasury and Social Policy: The Contest for Control of by Nicholas Deakin, Richard Parry (auth.)

By Nicholas Deakin, Richard Parry (auth.)

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Additional info for The Treasury and Social Policy: The Contest for Control of Welfare Strategy

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65 in CAB/129/121) Getting ministers to perceive public expenditure as a problem had been a long-term Treasury objective. Against their earlier fears, the PESC process was offering a location for the eventual defeat of the combined forces of the social spending departments. Social expenditure was deployed as a matter of economic impact and not as a political and social tool under both Labour and Conservative governments. As Heclo and Wildavsky traced, relations between Treasury officials and their opposite numbers came to be focused on the PESC plan and were much less a fragmented series of bids for more spending promoted by appeals to the Prime Minister and to public demand.

Social policy in the early PESC reports We can now study the early PESC reports and trace how the recommendations of officials on the committee were handled by ministers. Of particular interest is the first report of all in 1961 (presented by the Treasury but ‘fully worked over by a committee representing 24 departments’) and the first of the Labour government in 1965. What is evident is the association of social policy with the optimistic general economic forecasts about the availability of resources; and some evidence that the Treasury could use PESC to control incremental creep and use macro-economic evidence (especially in 1965) to rein in the more ambitious manifesto undertakings.

16 The Treasury and Social Policy 2 The Evolution of the Treasury’s Intervention in Social Policy The Treasury’s original line of interest in social policy derives from its wish to exercise tighter control over the operation of the government machine. In the words of Sir Thomas Heath (a former Permanent Secretary, writing in 1927), ‘in essence it is the one permanent institution which stands between the country and national bankruptcy’ (Heath, 1927: 1). Its position as an elite department was secured only slowly by the restriction of the rights of other departments to propose expenditure.

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