Chapter IV
WHITEHALL AND INTO WAR

Civil Servants are the seamy side of the British Constitution ...the seams without which it would fall to pieces.

The Civil Servant of the Future (Lecture in King's College, London, April 29, 1921)


1. The Board of Trade and its Presidents

T HE Board of Trade, when I joined it, was a large and varied Department on the point of becoming larger. It covered commerce and industry, shipping, railways, copyright, patents, and labour questions, so far as these last were the subject of action by Government; in practice, in July 1908, this meant labour statistics and conciliation in trade disputes. The labour side of its work received a large extension in two ways soon after I joined the Board -- by the establishment of labour exchanges in 1910 followed by unemployment insurance in 1911, and by the passage of the Trade Boards Act in 1909. The territory of the old Board of Trade is divided now between seven departments each with its Minister -- Supply, Materials, Labour and National Service, Transport, Food, Fuel and Power, and the Board of Trade itself.

Though dealing with so many new problems of the, day, the Board was archaic in form. It was in formal style the Committee of the Privy Council on Trade and Foreign Plantations dating from 1696 and reconstituted in 1786. As a Committee, it included among its members, in addition to the principal Secretaries of State, such unexpected dignitaries as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the Speaker of the House of Commons of Ireland. All its most formal acts were recorded as proceedings of a Committee. Thus the minute by which I became Director of Labour Exchanges runs in the following terms:

AT THE COUNCIL CHAMBER, WHITEHALL This Thirtieth day of September, 1909 PRESENT The Right Honble. Winston S. Churchill, M.P. Read the Labour Exchange Act, 1909. Read also letter from the Treasury dated the 21st September, 1909,

-71-

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