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Secretary of State for Economic Affairs

From Academic Kids

The Secretary of State for Economic Affairs was a position in the United Kingdom government briefly established by Harold Wilson in October 1964. Wilson had been impressed by the six-weeks experiment of a Minister for Economic Affairs in 1947, an office occupied by Stafford Cripps before he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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Front page of the National Plan

Wilson's advisers Patrick Blackett and Thomas Balogh advised him to recreate a new Ministry, to be called the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), in order to drive through his economic plan. Wilson wanted to divide the functions of the Treasury in two, in part to reduce its power. The DEA, as it soon became known, would undertake long-term planning of the economy and industry, while the Treasury would determine short-term revenue raising and financial management. The DEA was therefore tasked with the preparation of a National Plan for the economy, which was published in September 1965.

Critics of Wilson's approach, including Douglas Jay, suspected the main reason for the Department was to appease George Brown, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. The story (which was true) that Brown finally accepted the job while riding in a taxi with Wilson tended to lead credence to this analysis.

Under Brown the Department had a reasonable degree of influence. However, Brown was moved to the Foreign Office in August 1966, and the two succeeding Secretaries of State were not of his rank. The Treasury was able to claw back its power and the Department had become moribund long before it was wound up. The name and part of the history of the ministry was almost certainly the inspiration for the 'Department of Administrative Affairs' in Yes, Minister.

Secretaries of State for Economic Affairs

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