THE MINISTRY OF FOOD AND AFTER
The success of rationing is a supreme case of muddling through by brilliant improvisations made necessary by shifting policy and division of counsels.
British Food Control, p. 229.
T HE new Government of December 1916 split the historic immense department of the Board of Trade. Three new Ministries, Labour, Food and Shipping, were carved out of it, and still left plenty of work behind -- Commercial, Companies, Harbours, Railways, Bankruptcy and Labour Statistics, to say nothing of reconstruction after the war. Llewellyn Smith said to me soon after the split that he was busier than ever. For me, the split meant that all the work on which I had been engaged was now the concern either of the Ministry of Labour or of the Ministry of Food. But my official rank was that of Assistant Secretary in the Board of Trade.
I was busiest on the new task of Food Control, though till the middle of December I hoped to get back to Labour; I had been in charge of everything that fell to the new Labour Department and I would have liked to be its principal official. But the new Minister, John Hodge of the Steel Smelters, had other ideas. He wanted as his Permanent Secretary D. J. Shackleton, ex-M.P. and trade union leader and now a National Health Insurance Commissioner. I did not see Shackleton running a large department, and having gone to see Hodge I asked him if he would consider making me Joint Secretary with Shackleton. Hodge apparently took umbrage at that and a day or two later wrote to say that as I had made this suggestion, he did not feel able to offer me any post at all in the Ministry of Labour. I put things right by a letter which got a pleasant answer and made our parting friendly, but it was final.
I found myself by the middle of December cut off from the department which I had created, and I came to the Ministry of Food as Second Secretary with Sir Henry Rew (of the Board of Agriculture) as Permanent Secretary. I stayed with Food for nearly three years, till I left the Civil Service altogether in September 1919.