Secretary of State for Economic Affairs

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The Secretary of State for Economic Affairs was briefly an office of Her Majesty's government in the United Kingdom. It was 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. The office was revived for eight months in 1950 and held by Hugh Gaitskell and, after Conservative victory in 1951 election, Churchill also appointed a Minister of Economic Affairs, Arthur Salter, in the period 1951-2.

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 in 1969.

Department of Economic Affairs (1947)[edit]

Minister for Economic Affairs[edit]

Colour key (for political parties):

Name Term of office Political party P.M. Ch.Exch.
Sir Stafford Cripps 29 September 1947 13 November 1947 Labour Attlee Dalton

Department of Economic Affairs (1964–1969)[edit]

Secretaries of State for Economic Affairs[edit]

Colour key (for political parties):

Name Term of office Political party P.M. Ch.Exch.
George Brown 16 October 1964 11 August 1966 Labour Wilson Callaghan
Michael Stewart 11 August 1966 29 August 1967 Labour
Peter Shore 29 August 1967 6 October 1969 Labour Jenkins

Ministers of State for Economic Affairs[edit]

Under-Secretaries of State for Economic Affairs[edit]

Source: D. Butler and G. Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000