The Organization of British Central Government, 1914-1956: A Survey by a Study Group

The Organization of British Central Government, 1914-1956: A Survey by a Study Group

The Organization of British Central Government, 1914-1956: A Survey by a Study Group

The Organization of British Central Government, 1914-1956: A Survey by a Study Group

Excerpt

This book is about the changes which have taken place in the broad organization of central government in Britain between the outbreak of the First World War in August, 1914, and the end of 1956. The years separating those dates comprise but a small part of the centuries over which the institutions of British Government have taken shape, though in the last four decades the rate of growth and change -- in no small degree due to the impact of two World Wars -- was perhaps unprecedented. Such long continuous historical development has ensured that our governmental institutions do not conform to a regular pattern but are involved and complicated, while their nomenclature is often baffling to the uninitiated. It is well nigh impossible to fit all our governmental institutions into a number of neat and unequivocal categories: there are always some which stand alone. Nor are students of those institutions ever likely to agree completely about either the scope of or even the titles to be given to any such categories. We have chosen to call the subject matter of our study the organization of central government: it is necessary, therefore, to discuss at the outset what we mean by 'central government' and by 'organization'.

We are not concerned here, except in passing, with the Crown, the two Houses of Parliament, or the work -- as opposed to some aspects of the organization -- of the Courts of Law. We are not concerned with local government or with the relations between central and local government. Nor do we deal with that large group of public authorities which are usually statutory and are sometimes called public boards or non-departmental bodies, whose rise to prominence -- particularly in the form of huge industrial corporations -- has been so marked a feature of the latter part of our period. These bodies are not wholly subject to ministerial and parliamentary control, and they are not staffed by members of the Civil Service. These characteristics put them outside the scope of this study. By 'central government' or 'central administration' (we use both terms in the text), we mean the government departments whose spiritual if not physical headquarters are to be found in Whitehall: for whose every action Ministers are directly and completely responsible to Parliament: and whose officers are, in all but a few exceptional cases, civil servants.

The basic pattern of the central administration is simple. First . . .

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