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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003