The Civil Service in Britain and France

By William A. Robson | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
WHITLEY COUNCILS IN THE CIVIL SERVICE

By DOUGLAS HOUGHTON, M.P. ( General Secretary, Inland Revenue Staff Federation)

IN my long experience of unfavourable official replies I have seen nothing quite so dusty as the answer given by the Board of Inland Revenue to a petition from some wretched income tax clerks in 1890. It read:

'The Board will be glad if you will inform those clerks who signed the Petition that if they are dissatisfied with the weekly wages which the Surveyor of Taxes is authorized to pay, it is open to all of them to give one week's notice and to seek employment elsewhere.'

The clerk who actually forwarded the petition took the hint and went. The rest kept quiet for a while. These men should, of course, have known better than to fortify their claim to better wages by saying that local Clerks to the Commissioners of Taxes were lazy and overpaid. Under the comprehensive rules governing memorials only a 'respectful representation' could be received. Subsequent petitions were more wisely drawn up, with the result that ten years afterwards the Board consented to receive 'a small deputation' one Saturday afternoon.

That brought 'recognition'. Few associations of civil servants were 'recognized' at the turn of the century, and none at all representing classes common to the Service.

Associations of Post Office servants were given a form of recognition as far back as 1899, but their spokesmen had to be 'officers directly concerned'. This condition was relaxed a little later to allow of representations being made by the secretary of the Postmen's Federation who was not himself in the Post Office Service. It was not until 1906 that Mr Sydney Buxton announced that 'he was prepared frankly to recognize any duly

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