A New Economic Policy ?
The promotion of Sir Stafford Cripps has given rise to the assump- tion that an entirely new economic policy is to be framed, and that responsibility for its success or failure will rest squarely on the new Minister for Economic Affairs. This is only partially true. Sir Stafford's sphere of responsibRity is important enough, compre- hending as it does the new export drive, the reduction of home consumption and the redistribution of materials and labour to increase their productivity, which is undoubtedly lower than it need be. Likewise the crucial decision on the nationalisation of iron and steel, with all its political and economic implications, lies chiefly with him —to the extent that it can be separated from the collective responsi- bility of the Government as a whole. This is a vast sector to be commanded by one man, but the fact remains that it does not coincide with the total field of economic affairs, and to that extent the title of the new office is a misnomer. However successful Sir Stafford Cripps may be in his new task, his work can be completely upset unless an equal measure of success is achieved in financial policy by a Minister of whom singularly little is heard these days—Mr. Dalton. The total effect of a reduction of supplies to the home market, accom- panied by an increase in earnings and a completely inadequate cut of £200,000,000 in capital expenditure, is to increase rather than decrease the pressure of inflation. The controls which the general public (with rather more faith than reason) expects to keep this pressure within manageable limits belong to the Treasury, and it has been pointed out with some care that Sir Stafford has no direct jurisdiction over them. Moreover, it was made clear to the Cabinet once again on Wednesday that nobody except the trade unions can claim control over wages. Clearly the Minister for Economic Affairs is not all-powerful. But if the unions can be held in check, and if the Chancellor produces an autumn Budget containing a large reduction in subsidies and an increase in purchase taxes, Sir Stafford Cripps will have a better opportunity to show what he can do.