The Central Organisation

The Minister formally responsible for home economic affairs in the Labour Government was the Lord President of the Council. Mr. Attlee's administration thus followed, in its first years, the precedent set by the Coalition Government during the war. The Lord President's Committee had considerably altered its composition on the change of government in 1945; and the economic condition of Great Britain had now taken the place of military strategy as the main preoccupation of Government. Finance ceases to be a prime consideration in war when the limit to government consumption is set by the sum of the national resources less only that minimum which is reąuired to keep the ordinary citizen and consumer in good heart as an efficient producer. Resources then are allocated between one government department and another, and distributed to the consumer by ration and licence. 1 Cmd. 7572, paras. 3, 6 and 35. 2 Cmd. 7046, para. 12. In time of war the various Departments associated with the war effort take, and ought to take, all that is reąuired to enable us successfully to prosecute the war. The task of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is there-fore determined by circumstances largely outside his control.1 [Sir Kingsley Wood, Chancellor of the Exchequer, April 1941.] His business is confined to the distribution "with all possible jus-tice", of "the resulting burden", to ensure stability of prices and, above all, to remove from the market that surplus of income which the consumer cannot spend and will not save. Government in peace no longer takes all. The expenditure of citizens and Government alike is limited by revenue. Finance reassumes its importance as the area over which direct distribution by ration and allocation is contracted. The fiscal budget becomes once more the keystone; and the Chancellor, responsible for finding the money, resumes his power as the principal architect of domestic policy. The change took place in 1948. The newly appointed Chancellor (Sir Stafford Cripps) assumed the fuli responsibility for economic planning. A (Parfia-mentary) Economic Secretary was added to his entourage to serve as a junior Minister in charge of economic affairs and the central machinery was strengthened in 1947 by the creation of a Planning Board and a Central Economic Planning Staff. The Board was made up of representatives of industry and organised labour sitting with the Permanent Heads of the principal Government departments con­cerned with economic affairs.2 The staff were wholly official, though many were recruited from outside from among those who had served in similar capacities during the war. The Central Economic Planning Staff, the Central Statistical Office and the Economic Section, supported and strengthened by the many statistical and intelligence branches, sections and officers who had by now been established throughout the departments and divisions of Government, severally and in combination, now con-stitute that "organisation with enough knowledge and reliable in­formation" which had been put down as the first element in the system of economic planning. Government departments, firms, groups of firms, trade associations and nationalised undertakings voluntarily or under the law, furnish statistics and other pieces of information. This mass of information is transmitted through departmental headquarters to the Central Statistical Office and through them, to the Economic Section, the Planning Staff and to the Ministerial and inter-departmental committees who share the 1 370 H.C. 1331. 2 449 H.C. 44. responsibility for formulating the national needs and assessing the national resources. Many of the statistics are published in the Annual Abstract, the Monthly Digest and elsewhere; they are used in the preparation of the Economic Surveys, in the drafting of budgets and programmes and in the compilation of the annual estimates of national income and expenditure.