HM Treasury anniversaries seminar series, 2021
‘Houses divided’: The 1911 Parliament Act
Dr Niamh Gallagher, University of Cambridge
25 March 2021
The 1911 Parliament Act was a transformative moment in Britain's constitutional history which stripped away many of the aristocratic powers of the Lords and ushered in more modern forms of democracy. This talk explores some of the major impetuses behind the Act, not least the 1909 People's Budget and general elections of 1910. It revisits the social reform agenda - a precursor to the modern welfare state - of the Old Liberal Party, the controversies between those who supported and rejected the Budget, and the important unintended consequences on Ireland's place within the United Kingdom. From 'dilapidated dukes' and the tortuous 'Irish Question' to controversies over tariffs, taxation and state intervention, this talk is a brief exploration of issues that energised politics one hundred years ago, many of which are still familiar today.
Coming off the Gold Standard in 1931
Dr Olivier Accominotti, LSE
6 May 2021
The year 1931 was marked by extreme turbulence on global financial markets. In the spring and summer, a series of financial panics shook Central Europe before spreading to the rest of the world. The crisis pushed the United Kingdom off the gold standard in September and resulted in the breakdown of the international monetary system. In the United States, a severe banking panic led thousands of commercial banks to fail. Financial troubles extended to most regions of the world and spared few countries. The crisis accelerated the Great Depression and was a key factor in the disintegration of global finance in the 1930s. This seminar traces how the global financial crisis of 1931 transmitted throughout the world and examines its various propagation channels.
Negotiating regulatory powers before the nationalisation of the Bank of England, 1946
Austen Saunders, Bank of England
10 June 2021
When Lord Catto (Governor of the Bank of England) and Hugh Dalton (the new Chancellor of the Exchequer) negotiated the terms of the Bank of England’s nationalisation, one of the very few sources of real friction concerned what statutory regulatory powers the Bank should be given. It was the Treasury which argued for more powers, and the Bank which lobbied against them. Why? The answer hinges on how the Bank understood its role, and represents a moment in the long history of productive ambiguity which has characterised the relationship between the Bank of England and the British state. Placing the negotiations within that history helps us to understand whether (as David Kynaston concludes) the Bank and the government ‘missed a historic opportunity’ in 1946 to comprehensively redefine the Bank’s responsibilities, and if so, why.
The Decimalisation of Britain’s coinage in 1971
Dr Kevin Clancy, Royal Mint
16 September 2021
Britain adopted a decimal system of currency on 15 February 1971. The changeover took several years to plan and involved an extended period of transition to ensure the public was prepared. It can be seen as part of the modernisation of Britain in the post-war world and it raised important economic questions. It involved the complete redesign of the coinage, required the relocation of the Royal Mint and meant the population of Britain had to unlearn a 1,000-year old tradition of calculation in relation to money. There are many aspects to the subject but this paper will focus on why decimalisation happened when it did, how government managed the transition and what the legacy was of introducing this new system of coinage.
The 1981 Budget
Dr Duncan Needham, University of Cambridge
21 October 2021
The 1981 Budget is principally remembered for the decision to raise taxes in the depths of the worst UK recession since the 1930s. By tightening fiscal policy in a slump, Margaret Thatcher’s government flew in the face of the post-war Keynesian orthodoxy, famously incurring the wrath of the economics establishment. But while the major public debates were over fiscal policy, an often-neglected driver of the 1981 Budget was the need to restore monetary policy credibility. Interest rates were lowered while the target ranges for monetary growth (set out a year earlier in the Medium-Term Financial Strategy) were raised. The fiscal leg of the MTFS was reinforced while the monetary policy leg (and ‘monetarism’) was downgraded. This set the course for credit, particularly housing credit, to fuel economic growth in the 1980s.