The Civil Service in Britain and France

By William A. Robson | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
RECENT TRENDS IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

By WILLIAM A. ROBSON


I

THE increased functions of the state are one of the most commonplace facts of modern political history. Every text-book on government emphasizes the vast growth in the duties and responsibilities of public authorities today compared with a century ago. This is unquestionably true. Indeed, not only are most of the functions of government relatively new, but so, too, are a majority of the departments which carry them out.

In 1854, very few of the government departments which we know today had come into existence. The Treasury, Home Office, Board of Trade, Foreign Office, Post Office, Admiralty, Customs, Inland Revenue, Lord Chancellor's Department, and Office of Works, were the principal exceptions. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries dates from 1903 (when the former Board of Agriculture and Fisheries was set up); the Ministry of Education from 1899 (if we take the Board of Education as its progenitor); the Air Ministry from 1917; the Ministry of Labour from 1917; the Ministry of Health from 1919; the Ministry of Supply from 1939; the Ministry of Fuel and Power from 1942; the Ministry of National Insurance from 1944; the Ministry of Housing and Local Government from 1951, or from 1943 if we regard the Ministry of Town and Country Planning as its progenitor. The Ministry of Transport was created in 1919 and the Ministry of Civil Aviation in 1944: the two were merged in 1953.

We can thus see that a substantial proportion of our major departments are of recent origin; and this is an indication in terms of structure of the enlarged scale and scope of government functions. But the proliferation of departments is by no means the only sign of expansion. The Ministry of Health, for example,

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