The Sterling Crisis: Backstage experts who call the shots: Economic advisers

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR and Norman Lamont have surrounded themselves with economic advisers, officials and other eminences grises who helped shape and implement the policies which ended so abjectly this week.

Critics looking for possible scapegoats behind the elected politicians are faced with a lengthy list of candidates.

Sir Terry Burns, permanent secretary at the Treasury, has been at the cutting edge of United Kingdom economic policy-making for more than a decade and has been the target of brickbats before.

As well as advising the Chancellor he has been the Prime Minister's friend and economic mentor for years.

His critics accuse him of failing to foresee the strength of the boom between 1986 and 1988, when Nigel Lawson was Chancellor, and then failing to damp it down by tightening fiscal or monetary policy.

He acquired the nickname Teflon Terry after remaining unscathed despite highly inaccurate forecasting by Treasury officials.

Margaret Thatcher appointed him as the Treasury's chief economic adviser in 1980 and he was promoted to the top job in April 1991. He received his knighthood in 1983.

With his working-class Geordie background and passion for football (he is a Queen's Park Rangers supporter), he was a sharp contrast to the smooth mandarins of the Treasury.

He only officially became a civil servant, as distinct from someone on contract to the Treasury, in 1989.

Professor Alan Budd, chief economic adviser to the Treasury, has been another powerful influence on policy-making. He was appointed by Mr Major in July 1991. It was not his first spell at the Treasury. In his thirties he spent four years as senior economic adviser during the Heath Government.

Formerly group economic adviser to Barclays Bank, Professor Budd spent most of the 1980s at the London Business School - which was also the stamping ground of Sir Terry in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

When he first arrived at the Treasury he was asked to tone down his more forthright views in internal documents.

A less well-known influence on Mr Lamont is Bill Robinson, the Chancellor's special adviser, a political appointment.

Mr Lamont recruited him from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the independent think-tank, in February 1991, primarily to advise on tax and related matters.

Before the IFS he, too, spent time at the London Business School in its Centre for Economic Forecasting. He had had spells before in the Cabinet Office, the Treasury and the European Commission.

At No 10 Downing Street the greatest influence on economic policy is Sarah Hogg, the former financial journalist who heads Mr Major's central policy unit.

Mrs Hogg, who is married to the foreign office minister Douglas Hogg, is a staunch supporter of the exchange rate mechanism and is said to have advised Mr Major, when he was Chancellor, on the timing of Britain's entry.

Gus O'Donnell, the Prime Minister's chief press secretary, is understood to exert some influence on economic matters because of his earlier job as a Treasury economist.

At the Bank of England the governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton and deputy governor Eddie George share responsibility for the implementation of policy.

One of the most powerful men at the Bank is Ian Plenderleith, an associate director. Mr Plenderleith is in charge of the foreign exchange and money markets divisions, and oversaw the bank's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prop up sterling using foreign exchange reserves.

Alongside him is Tony Coleby, the director responsible for monetary policy.

(Photographs omitted)

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