Bureaucrats and Policy Making: A Comparative Overview

By Ezra N. Suleiman | Go to book overview

THE POLITICAL STATUS OF
HIGHER CIVIL SERVANTS
IN BRITAIN *

Richard Rose

Higher civil servants embody continuity in the direction of British government. Whereas politicians and parties come and go from office with considerable frequency, civil servants are secure for nearly forty years. This is long enough to see the party in power change six to ten times, and the particular minister they serve change fifteen to twenty times. The outlook and actions of higher civil servants express the institutionalized understanding of generations of predecessors. For example, the present head of the civil service, Sir lan Bancroft, entered government in 1947 as private secretary to Sir Henry Wilson Smith, who had entered government in 1927 to be trained under persons who in turn had entered the civil service in Queen Victoria's reign.

Whilst the British civil service is in many respects traditionalistic, it is not a traditional institution of government; it is a Victorian innovation.

____________________
*
The research reported herein is part of a study of the growth of government in the United Kingdom since 1945, sponsored by programme grant HR 7849/1 of the British Economic and Social Research Council to the author.

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