The Background to Plowden

  • Richard Clarke
  • Alec Cairncross


The most convenient starting-point is the work of the Select Committee on Estimates on Treasury Control of Expenditure [H.C. 254, 1957–58]. This report, prepared under the chairmanship of Sir Godfrey Nicholson, was published in July 1958: it was based on four months’ questioning of Treasury and other witnesses and substantial written memoranda: and its general tenor was critical but not unfavourable to the Treasury ‘system’. The sting was in the tail:

The aim of Your Committee was to find out whether the present ‘system’ of Treasury control is as effective as modern conditions demand. Your Committee cannot give a definite answer. The system appears to work reasonably well. But it would be idle to pretend that Your Committee is left entirely without disquiet …

Because of all these doubts, and because of the constitutional significance of the subject, Your Committee have reached the conclusion that further enquiry, at once more detailed and more expert, is required. Accordingly they recommend that a small independent committee, which should have access to Cabinet papers, be appointed to report upon the theory and practice of Treasury control of expenditure.


Gross Domestic Product Public Expenditure Select Committee Economy Campaign Constitutional Significance 
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Copyright information

© Lady Clarke 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Clarke
  • Alec Cairncross

There are no affiliations available

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