IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Farewell to prices and incomes policies: Conservative economic policy-making, 1974-79


  • Adrian Williamson

    () (Trinity Hall, Cambridge)


From 1960 to 1979, Prices and Incomes Policy ('PIP') was central to Labour and Tory attempts to manage the economy. Since 1979, no Government has attempted direct controls on wages or prices. The Conservatives moved away from controls in the late 1970s. This paper considers two aspects of that change: the move away from PIP and the debates over joining the EMS. In the 1970s, the Conservatives were playing out in microcosm the central economic debates which had tormented policymakers since the 1960s and which were to preoccupy them throughout the 1980s and beyond. In contrast to the Wilson, Heath and Callaghan governments, they were moving away from PIP but they were doing so uncertainly. By default, they decided that markets should fix wages and prices, but with a little discreet assistance from a 'forum'. Whether that would turn back into PIP remained to be seen. They embarked upon, but did not resolve, a key question that then arose: should economic management depend upon close linkage with Europe and the Deutschmark? Or was the UK to be a monetarist island, 'entire of itself'? It is tempting to think that the abandonment of PIP, and British refusal to join the EMS, were inevitable. But this is not so. By 1979, the Conservatives had posed many questions about inflation, but they had arrived at very few answers.

Suggested Citation

  • Adrian Williamson, 2012. "Farewell to prices and incomes policies: Conservative economic policy-making, 1974-79," Working Papers 15, Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge, revised 01 Oct 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:cmh:wpaper:09

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: None.
    Download Restriction: None.

    More about this item


    Thatcherism; Prices and Incomes Policy; Monetary Policy; Sterling.;

    JEL classification:

    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cmh:wpaper:09. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Amy Price). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.