Forum for National Recovery: Independent central bank urged: Structure of government

AN INDEPENDENT central bank and a radically reformed Treasury were demanded by prominent industrialists and economic commentators as part of a programme of structural change in the government of the UK.

Howard Davies, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the myriad responsibilities of the Treasury - including management of the Civil Service - was hampering its effectiveness as a department of state. The 'negative culture' perpetuated by its public expenditure divisions flowed through the Treasury's other activities.

'That empire does need breaking up, opening up. The case for separating the Treasury (functions) into a ministry for economic growth, and a public spending ministry is a sensible one,' he told the meeting.

There needed to be a redefinition of where the Government's responsibilities in relation to industry began and ended. 'It is not impossible to construct a more proactive role in government that does not fall at the 'We are not picking winners' fence.'

Echoing previous speakers, he portrayed an independent central bank as not just desirable, but inevitable. 'I assert that it will happen. If we are moving towards economic and monetary union, it will happen.'

But all those in favour of radical structural change at the heart of government had to work for it with tact and diplomacy, Mr Davies went on. 'It is very easy to slip into ritualistic abuse of the mandarinate. I do not think that is helpful. Treasury people are for the most part human beings. If you prick them, they bleed.'

Sue Slipman, director of the National Council for One Parent Families, argued that Britain had become 'virtually a one-party state' because there was no effective opposition to the Conservative government.

Ms Slipman, once prominent in the now-defunct Social Democratic Party, told the meeting: 'For the first time in my life, I am not a member of a political party. What most people are looking for now is some form of oppositional growth whereby ideas are put into the public domain. If the Labour Party is rethinking its strategy, then it is doing so in private cabals; it is not talking to people on the ground who are trying to renew the political process.'

Sir Peter Kemp, until recently second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office, said it was up to those who expressed dissatisfaction with the status quo to work for changes themselves, and not constantly to expect others to take the initiative. The notion that governments have endless power, endless money to do things is a bit of a cop-out. I belong to the wing that says we should be doing very much more for ourselves.'

Professor Peter Hennessy, historian of Britain's system of Cabinet government and of the Civil Service, traced the country's economic ills to the traditional sacrifice of the productive base on the altar of finance.

'Unless you have a thriving productive base in terms of goods and services and a seed-corn mentality . . . all the financial tinkering in the world is not going to save you. If only we could rediscover an obsession with production which was reflected in the ministerial pecking order, if we could get that right, the finance would take care of itself.'

Kevin Carey, who is unemployed, said the notion of the sovereignty of Parliament was 'plain daft'. He went on: 'There must be less secrecy in government, proportional representation. That way there would be less patronage handed out in so partisan a way.

'We are living with a government that has championed philistinism. What passes for Cabinet wisdom would not have passed muster in Winston Churchill's nursery.'

David French, the director of Relate, the marriage guidance organisation, said the social costs of the recession were enormous. The average cost to the taxpayer of a divorce or separation involving young children, was around pounds 10,000, in terms of legal aid and social security costs. Last year Relate helped 70,000 couples.

But no one department of state was responsible for co-ordinating polices on the social aspects of the recession. 'There is a complete absence in our field of effective mechanisms for dealing with these problems,' he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'