Posted by: aboutalbion | October 18, 2012


After discovering the political standpoint called ‘fiscal conservatism’ last weekend (and posted yesterday), another surprising (and related) discovery came my way soon after.

I read that the United Kingdom actually has eight Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt [currently £1.0395 trillion at the end of August 2012].

They have functions arising from the National Debt Reduction Act 1786 (which established William Pitt’s sinking fund).  I read that, by the National Debt Commissioners Act 1818, any three (or more) Commissioners acting together can exercise all of the Commissioners powers.

Do they meet regularly to advise the Prime Minister and the Chancellor about how to reduce the UK national debt?  Apparently not …  Their last business meeting took place on 12 October 1860, and nobody knows why their meetings stopped …  I hypothesize that they said to themselves that, actually, the roof doesn’t fall in if the national debt gets bigger and bigger … so let’s stop making ourselves unpopular and let’s stop meeting.

So the original role of the Commissioners is no longer active.  However, the Commissioners are currently responsible for about £45 billion of invested funds, but they give that task to officials in the Debt Management Office to manage.

I read that the current eight Commissioners are:
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Governor of the Bank of England
(Two) Deputy Governors of the Bank of England
Speaker of the House of Commons
Master of the Rolls
Accountant General of the Supreme Court
Lord Chief Justice

I read that the Commissioners do not have to produce an annual report, so it seems that they are accountable to no one, including Parliament.

I realise that William Pitt’s 18th century method for reducing the national debt, namely, a ‘sinking fund’, has been discredited.  A ‘sinking fund’ has the appearance of a ‘worthwhile investment’ [see yesterday’s post] in that it allegedly pays for itself.  Sadly, that didn’t (and doesn’t) quite work in ‘free’ market conditions.  A ‘sinking fund’ seems to be another case of debt dressed up as an investment opportunity.

From my perspective, I would like to see these Commissioners resume their regular meetings and become policy-active in relation to the UK national debt.  I can’t help feeling that there is a moral cost to living with perpetual increasing debt, besides the political cost of surrendering sovereignty (bit by bit) to the UK’s creditors.

This is the case for putting fiscal policy ahead of social policy.  Without a sustainable fiscal policy, I don’t think you can have a sustainable and affordable social policy.


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