Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 5, Home Office Officials 1782-1870. Originally published by University of London, London, 1975.
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The Home Office came into existence in 1782 as a result of the decision to reorganise the business undertaken by the Secretaries of State. Originally there had been two Secretaries of State who had shared domestic business. The conduct of foreign affairs, on the other hand, had been divided between them on a geographical basis, an arrangement that had given rise to the designations 'northern' and 'southern' to describe the departments over which they presided. Colonial business formed part of the area of responsibility of the Southern Secretary until 1768 when it was transferred to a third or Colonial Secretary. In 1782 the office of third Secretary of State was abolished. Foreign business was placed exclusively in the hands of one of the remaining Secretaries of State while domestic and colonial business was entrusted to the other. As a consequence the Secretaries of State came to be known as the Foreign and Home Secretaries and their departments as the Foreign and Home Offices. (fn. 1)
In institutional terms the Foreign Office took over the staff which had served in the former Northern Department while the Home Office was composed of that of the former Southern Department, supplemented by two of the officials of the abolished Colonial Office. (fn. 2) As constituted in March 1782 the Home Office consisted of a Secretary of State, two Under Secretaries, a Chief Clerk and ten other Clerks, the first four of whom were customarily known as Senior Clerks, two Office or Chamber Keepers and a Housekeeper or Necessary Woman. Of these the Secretary of State and the Under Secretaries received salaries from the crown. The Secretary of State, the Under Secretaries, the Chief Clerk and the Office Keepers were also entitled to fixed fees on instruments passing through the office. The Secretary of State was responsible for paying out of his emoluments the salaries of all the Clerks (except the Chief Clerk), the Office Keepers and the Housekeeper. The Clerks also received fixed annual amounts from the Post Office in compensation for the loss of part of the privilege of franking mail. (fn. 3)
The responsibilities of the office were increased in May 1782 as a result of the abolition of the Board of Trade which had previously undertaken certain colonial or plantation business. Part of this business had been the function of reporting on the acts of colonial legislatures which had been undertaken by the Counsel to the Board. This function was now entrusted to a Counsel attached to the Home Office. (fn. 4) Other colonial business was undertaken on a temporary basis by Elliott, the former Solicitor and Clerk of Reports and acting Secretary of the Board. In 1783 a separate sub-department of the office was formed, known as the Plantation Department, to assume this responsibility. Three Clerks were assigned to it and it was placed in the charge of Elliott who was originally designated Chief Clerk but who was given the rank of Under Secretary in the following year. (fn. 5)
In the years 1785-6 the Home and Foreign Offices were investigated by the Commissioners on Fees. The evidence which the Commissioners took from the officials of the two departments and which is included in their first report, (fn. 6) affords a valuable insight into the manner in which they were organised at this period. The recommendations made by the Commissioners were in substance the same for both offices. One of the more significant of these was that one of the Under Secretaries should be 'stationary' or permanent and undertake 'the necessary official business' of his department while the other should be appointed by the Secretary of State for the time being and manage his 'private and confidential business'. (fn. 7) This proposed differentiation, which had to a certain extent been foreshadowed by earlier conventions in the two offices, eventually formed the basis of the distinction between the 'Permanent' and 'Parliamentary' Under Secretaries. The Commissioners recommended the discontinuation of the arrangements under which officials had received their remuneration in uncertain amounts from a variety of different sources and their replacement by a system whereby all allowances, fees and perquisites were carried to a common fund out of which fixed salaries were paid. They also urged the adoption of regular arrangements for retiring pensions and the abolition of a number of sinecure offices attached to the offices of the Secretaries of State which had been kept in being in order to provide for officials who were no longer active. (fn. 8)
Eight years were to elapse before any action was taken on the recommendations of the Commissioners on Fees. In the meantime a number of changes occurred in the structure of the office. In 1787 Elliott, the Under Secretary for the Plantation Department, died and was not replaced. (fn. 9) Two years later the three Clerks in the same department were absorbed into the office and the number of Clerks on the ordinary establishment increased to eleven in consequence. (fn. 10) In January 1791 the office of Law Clerk, which had formerly been attached to the offices of the Secretaries of State, was revived while in June of the same year Dundas, on his appointment as Home Secretary, made salaries available for a Private Secretary and a Précis Writer. (fn. 11) In November of the same year the Law Clerk, King, was appointed a third Under Secretary. However, this was only a temporary arrangement, made necessary by Nepean's absence abroad, and lasted only until August 1792 when the resignation of Bernard, the other Under Secretary, reduced the number of these officials to two, at which level it remained for the rest of the period covered by these lists. (fn. 12)
In October 1792 a Librarian was appointed while in September 1793 the responsibility of keeping the criminal register of felons at Newgate was assumed by the Home Office and entrusted to Raven, an Extra or Supplementary Clerk, who appears also to have taken charge of the growing general criminal business of the department. (fn. 13) In July 1794 the office of third Secretary of State was revived and given responsibility for war, Dundas being transferred from the Home Office to fill it. Shortly before his departure he set on foot a plan for retiring four of the older Clerks. He took two other Clerks with him to the War Office. When the arrangements were finally completed by his successor, Portland, no fewer than seven Clerks had been replaced within the space of a year-a turnover that was unparalleled during the period. (fn. 14)
It was not until February 1795 that the three Secretaries of State finally submitted their observations on the report of the Commissioners on Fees. (fn. 15) They rejected the recommendation that there should be one 'permanent' Under Secretary on the ground that there might be circumstances in which a Secretary of State would be justified in making a change in the holders of both these offices. They agreed to the proposal that all officials should be paid fixed salaries from a single source although they stipulated that the number of Clerks and the general level of remuneration should be higher than that originally recommended. They accepted the principle of making proper provision for retiring pensions. An order in council was thereupon promulgated to give effect to the proposals of the Commissioners as modified by the Secretaries of State. The establishment of the Home Office was fixed at one Secretary of State at £6000, two Under Secretaries at £1500, a Chief Clerk at £1000, eleven other Clerks with salaries ranging from £80 to £650, a Private Secretary and a Précis Writer, each with a salary of £300 and two Office Keepers and a Housekeeper, each with £100. Shortly afterwards the office of Law Clerk, which had been omitted in error, was included in the establishment with a salary of £300. (fn. 16) The salaries were to be paid out of a fund to which all the office fees were to be carried. In the event of the fund falling short, deficiencies were to be met by the civil list. (fn. 17)
In 1796 the growing criminal business of the department gave rise to the appointment of a Counsel. (fn. 18) In 1800 Raven was dismissed and his duties were divided between two other Supplementary Clerks, Capper and Day. The former was appointed Clerk for Criminal Business while the latter was made Keeper of the Criminal Register. (fn. 19) Although these offices continued to increase in importance as the nineteenth century proceeded they remained outside the ordinary establishment.
In 1799 the salaries of the Under Secretaries were increased to £2000 with provision for an increase to £2500 after three years' service. (fn. 20) In February 1801 it was laid down that the salary of the Chief Clerk should increase from £1000 to £1250 after five years' service. (fn. 21) In the following August the responsibility for colonial matters was removed from the Home Office and entrusted to the Secretary of State for War. (fn. 22) As a result the Counsel for Colonial Business passed under the authority of the latter. Otherwise there was no change in the structure of the Home Office where no special arrangements had been made for the conduct of colonial business since the abolition of the Plantation Department in 1789.
In 1803 the increase in the business arising from the correspondence relating to the militia, yeomanry and volunteer corps led to the appointment of two additional Clerks, bringing the total number up to thirteen. (fn. 23) In 1809 an arrangement was made for the remuneration of the Clerks to increase in proportion to their length of service. Provision was made for £80, £200, £300 and £400 to be added to their salaries after successive periods of five years' service. This arrangement was extended to three officials who remained outside the ordinary establishment, the Librarian, the Clerk for Criminal Business and the Keeper of the Criminal Register. (fn. 24)
In 1813 and 1818 respectively the offices of Counsel for Criminal Business and Law Clerk were abolished on the deaths of their holders. (fn. 25) In 1817, in response to criticism made by the House of Commons, the period of service required by Under Secretaries before they became entitled to the addition of £500 was extended from three to seven years. (fn. 26)
In 1822 parliamentary pressure for economy led to a comprehensive revision of the establishment. (fn. 27) The salaries of the Under Secretaries were fixed at £2000 without any provision for an increase for length of service. The previous arrangement under which a particular salary had been accorded to each Clerk with provision for increases after successive periods of five years' service was discontinued and replaced by a system according to which the Clerks were divided into classes to which salary scales with regular annual increments were attached. The Chief Clerk retained his special position with a scale ranging from £1000 to £1250. The remaining thirteen Clerks were divided into three classes, four Senior or First Class Clerks with salaries ranging from £600 to £800 with provision for the most senior to rise to £900, four Assistant or Second Class Clerks with salaries ranging from £350 to £545 and five Junior or Third Class Clerks with salaries ranging from £150 to £300. (fn. 28) It was laid down that Clerks should rise according to seniority to the head of their class but that they should not be promoted to a higher class without an express appointment by the Secretary of State. The offices of Private Secretary and Précis Writer were retained with their salaries unchanged. The Librarian and certain subordinate officials were incorporated into the establishment for the first time.
The order in council left open the position of three officials whom it described as 'Supernumerary Clerks'. These were the Keeper of the Criminal Register, the Clerk for Criminal Business and the latter's assistant. It was provided that these posts should remain outside the ordinary establishment while in the hands of their existing holders but that their future should be reconsidered when vacancies occurred. In the event this arrangement was not strictly adhered to. On the resignation of the Assistant Clerk for Criminal Business in 1827 no regular appointment was made, the work being entrusted to Everest who was not employed directly by the Home Office but who received his remuneration as a Clerk on the Convict Hulk Establishment of which his immediate superior, Capper, was Superintendent in addition to his duties as Clerk for Criminal Business. (fn. 29) Increasing work led in 1828 to the appointment of an Assistant Keeper of the Criminal Register but this again was not a regular appointment, its holder being paid out of the contingent fund. (fn. 30) It is clear that other Extra or Supplementary Clerks were employed in the criminal business of the department on a more or less permanent basis from about this period but, in the absence of sufficiently detailed records, there is no means of establishing precisely their identity or the limits of their service. (fn. 31)
In 1831 the position of the Under Secretaries was regulated. Although the Secretaries of State had rejected in 1795 the recommendations made by the Commissioners on Fees with regard to these offices, the practice in the Home Office had nevertheless conformed closely to their proposals. From 1782 one of the offices had been filled by a succession of individuals without seats in parliament whose tenure, while not permanent in a technical sense, had in fact been unaffected by political changes. In the case of the other office, however, it had been accepted that it was at the disposal of the Secretary of State and its holder had, since 1806, invariably sat in the House of Commons. In 1831 a Treasury minute gave formal recognition to these arrangements. The Under Secretaries were for the first time officially designated 'Permanent' and 'Parliamentary' and accorded distinct salaries, £2000 and £1500 respectively. (fn. 32) However, although the position of the Permanent Under Secretary was clearly defined from this point, there were two subsequent instances-those of Gregson (1835) and Le Marchant (1847-8)-in which tenure of the 'Parliamentary' under secretaryship was not associated with membership of either house of parliament.
In 1836 the business relating to aliens which had since 1793 been conducted by a separate department under the authority of the Secretary of State was transferred to the Home Office and entrusted to a former Clerk of that department who was brought onto the strength of the office. (fn. 33) In 1837 the status of the office of Parliamentary Counsel to the Home Office was given final definition. This post had had its origin in the arrangements made by Peel as Home Secretary for the reform and consolidation of the criminal law. The task of drafting the necessary measures had been entrusted principally to William Gregson. Gregson, although not in possession of a formal appointment, was employed between 1826 and 1833 on a continuous basis by successive Secretaries of State to prepare parliamentary bills relating both to criminal and other matters. (fn. 34) Gregson ceased to act in this capacity in 1833 and was not immediately replaced, the necessary work being undertaken by a number of different draftsmen during the next two years. (fn. 35) In 1835 Russell obtained authority for the appointment of a salaried Parliamentary Counsel to be permanently attached to the Home Office. (fn. 36) In the following year the Counsel was allowed the services of two Clerks (fn. 37) while the office itself was formally included in the establishment in 1837. (fn. 38)
In February 1841 it was found necessary to appoint a Solicitor to undertake the legal work of the department but this official resigned in September of the same year and was not replaced. (fn. 39) In 1842, as part of the arrangements made by the Treasury for the conduct of the legal business of the government, the work of the Parliamentary Counsel was considerably extended and the holder of the post, while remaining on the establishment of the Home Office, became in effect the principal draftsman to the government. At the same time the duties formerly undertaken by the Home Office Solicitor were transferred to the Treasury Solicitor. (fn. 40)
In October 1841 the offices of Keeper and Assistant Keeper of the Criminal Register were finally regulated by order in council. (fn. 41) In 1845 similar action was taken with regard to Everest, the Assistant Clerk for Criminal Business, who was then brought officially onto the strength of the Home Office. In 1847 Everest succeeded to the senior position on the retirement of Capper. However, although regulated by order in council, these posts still remained outside the ordinary establishment. (fn. 42)
In 1848 the state of the office was such that the Home Secretary, Grey, considered that it should be the subject of a comprehensive enquiry. The Treasury concurred and a committee consisting of Lewis, the Parliamentary Under Secretary, Sir Charles Trevelyan, the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and W. Gibson Craig, one of the Junior Lords of the Treasury, was appointed for the purpose. Grey accepted the substance of the recommendations contained in their report when preparing his minute of 22 January 1849 outlining his reform of the office. (fn. 43) It was evident that the work was very unequally distributed amongst the Clerks. Some of the most senior and highly paid were underemployed while others who were in less favourable positions were overburdened. The organisation had become inflexible partly because of the practice of granting special allowances for particular tasks-a practice which militated against the principle that the whole of an official's time should be at the disposal of the public. Much inconvenience and unnecessary expense had been incurred because the criminal department had been staffed by a separate group of Clerks and kept wholly distinct from the rest of the establishment. Grey authorised a rearrangement of the duties of the office based on a more rational distribution of work. Henceforth criminal business was to be considered part of the ordinary business of the department to which any Clerk could be assigned.
The principal changes in the establishment were sanctioned by an order in council (fn. 44) which authorised a reduction in the salary of the Chief Clerk and provided that for the future the first Senior Clerk should receive the addition of £100 to his salary only when he was in charge of one of the three branches into which the work of the office was divided. The salary of the Clerk for Criminal Business was assimilated to that of a Senior Clerk. The office of Précis Writer was abolished while the duties of the Librarian, who was given the additional title of Registrar, were extended. Grey accepted the recommendations of the committee to the effect that future appointments to the establishment should be subject to previous examination and to one year's probation, and that promotion from grade to grade should be made by selection according to merit and qualification. In implementing these reforms he was assisted by the fact that the Chief Clerk, two Senior Clerks and the Librarian, who also held the office of Précis Writer, all retired early in 1849. In selecting the new Chief Clerk he took the unusual step of promoting H. J. Knyvett over the heads of two Clerks who were more senior to him in point of service. Grey filled two of the vacancies on the establishment by transferring to them two Supplementary or Extra Clerks, Joseph and Maconochie, who had already given proof of their competence in the office. Finally the post of Clerk for Aliens Business was abolished and its former holder appointed to the vacant office of Librarian and Registrar. (fn. 45)
In 1851, on the abolition of the Signet Office, the residual functions connected with the Signet were transferred to the Home Office together with one of its former officials who was accorded the title of Clerk for Signet Business. (fn. 46) In May 1852 the remuneration of the two Supplementary Clerks attached to the Criminal Branch was revised. Previously they had been paid at a fixed weekly rate. They were now accorded salaries with provision for increases for successive periods of five years. (fn. 47) In August of the same year an application was made for an increase in the establishment to deal with the additional work thrown on the office by recent legislation. The Treasury agreed to an addition of one permanent and one supernumerary Junior Clerk. (fn. 48) In 1854 the supernumerary was made permanent thus bringing the total number of Junior Clerks up to seven. (fn. 49) In 1853 the business connected with turnpike roads and highways was taken over by the Home Office. Three Clerks formerly employed by the Surveyor of Roads were transferred to the department. One was given a special position and salary as Clerk for Roads Business while the other two were classed as Supplementary Clerks. (fn. 50)
In 1856 Grey, the Home Secretary, obtained Treasury consent to a further enquiry into the establishment. A committee was appointed consisting of Massey, the Parliamentary Under Secretary, H. B. W. Brand, Grey's former Private Secretary who was now a Junior Lord of the Treasury, and G. Arbuthnot who, as Auditor of the Civil List, was one of the senior permanent officials of the Treasury. Their report was dated 22 July 1856. (fn. 51) Despite the recommendation of 1848 the committee found that the appointment of new Clerks had not been subject to a preliminary examination or to a period of probationary service. However, they recognised that this state of affairs would be rectified as soon as new entrants began to be examined by the Civil Service Commissioners in conformity with the order in council of the previous year. They found that discipline in the office was defective and recommended that records of attendance should be kept and examined when promotions from one grade to another came to be considered. Apart from the case of the Chief Clerk appointed by Grey in 1849 such promotions had in the past been governed solely by reference to seniority. The committee confirmed the recommendation made by its predecessor in 1848 and urged that 'merit and capacity' should be the main considerations and that seniority should be only one of a number of claims to promotion.
The committee found that the business of the office was divided into three principal branches, known as the Commissions and Patents, the Domestic and the Criminal. They proposed that a fourth, to be known as the Police or Statistical Branch, should be placed under S. Redgrave, the Keeper of the Criminal Register who, together with Everest, the Clerk for Criminal Business, should be considered supernumerary Senior Clerks. As vacancies occurred the opportunity should be taken of reducing the number of Senior Clerks to three who, together with the Chief Clerk, would preside over the four branches. The committee did not feel any further reduction in the number of Clerks to be justified but urged that, as the amount of work increased, the practice of entrusting the more routine tasks to Supplementary Clerks should be extended. The latter should be divided into two classes to conform with arrangements already adopted in other departments. The committee recommended that the establishment should ultimately consist of a Chief Clerk with a fixed salary of £1000, three Senior Clerks, six Assistant Clerks and seven Junior Clerks with scales ranging from £650 to £900, from £350 to £600 and from £100 to £300 respectively, and a Librarian.
The new Statistical Branch was formed as soon as the report was received but otherwise no immediate steps were taken to implement its recommendations. (fn. 52) In August 1856 the system of examination by the Civil Service Commissioners was applied for the first time to a candidate for a junior clerkship on the establishment. This arrangement was extended to the Supplementary Clerks in 1859 and to the subordinate staff in 1861. (fn. 53) In 1858 the remuneration of Redgrave, the head of the Police and Statistical Branch, was brought into line with that of a Senior Clerk as recommended by the committee of 1856. (fn. 54) In February 1860 a similar arrangement was made for Everest, the Clerk in charge of the Criminal Branch. (fn. 55) In the following March Redgrave retired and his branch was entrusted to Leslie, one of the Senior Clerks on the ordinary establishment, with a salary of £900. The number of Assistant Clerks was increased from four to five and the class of Junior Clerks reduced from seven to six. It was also provided that the starting salary of newly appointed Junior Clerks should be £100 instead of £150. At the same time the Treasury attempted to secure an undertaking from the Home Office that, in conformity with the recommendation of the committee of 1856, no further appointment to the grade of Senior Clerk should be made until the number had been reduced to three. This the Secretary of State refused to give and the Treasury marked its displeasure by declining to pursue a proposal for an improvement in the salaries of the Assistant Clerks. (fn. 56)
In 1861 the position of the Supplementary Clerks was regulated. As suggested in 1856 they were divided into two classes, the first consisting of four Clerks and the second of three, with salary scales ranging from £150 to £300 and £100 to £150 respectively. (fn. 57) In August 1865 the office of Librarian and Registrar was abolished and its duties distributed amongst the Clerks on the establishment. At the same time the number of Assistant Clerks was increased from five to six. (fn. 58) In the following October the retirement of H. J. Knyvett, the Chief Clerk, became effective. He was replaced by C. R. Fitzgerald who was, with Treasury approval, at once accorded a salary of £1000, the maximum on the scale authorised in 1849. (fn. 59) J. Streatfield, one of the Senior Clerks on the old establishment, was placed in charge of the vacant branch with an increased salary of £900. The place of the fourth Senior Clerk was filled by the promotion of an Assistant Clerk, Dillon, who was not given any particular responsibility. Reverting to the stand which it had taken in 1860 the Treasury objected strongly to the last appointment, pointing out that it was in conflict with the recommendation of the committee of 1856 according to which each Senior Clerk should superintend a branch of business. Eventually agreement was reached that no further Senior Clerks should be appointed until the number had been reduced to three, including the Clerk for Criminal Business, and that, as vacancies occurred, they should be filled by the recruitment of additional Junior Clerks. At the same time the Treasury authorised improved salary arrangements granting the Chief Clerk a scale ranging from £1000 to £1200, the three Senior Clerks in charge of branches of business a scale ranging from £700 to £1000 and the Assistant Clerks a scale ranging from £350 to £600. Finally it was provided that, as soon as the existing anomalies had been removed, the establishment should be fixed at one Chief, three Senior, seven Assistant and eight Junior Clerks. (fn. 60)
In February 1866 the financial position of Sanders, the Clerk for Signet Business, was regulated and improved. (fn. 61) In the following June the salaries of the Supplementary Clerks were increased and the appointment of a fourth Second Class Supplementary Clerk authorised. (fn. 62) In December two Clerks, who had previously been employed on a temporary basis to prepare local taxation returns, were given permanent standing in the office. (fn. 63)
In December 1867 Anderson, a barrister previously employed by the Irish government, was brought to London and attached to the Home Office to give advice on the problems caused by the Fenian conspiracy. His appointment was originally intended to be purely temporary but it was found necessary to retain his services indefinitely as Assistant on Irish Affairs. (fn. 64) In February 1868 one Assistant and one Junior Clerk were added to the establishment, to deal with the increasing work, bringing the numbers in these grades to eight and six respectively. (fn. 65) In March the Treasury authorised the appointment of an Accountant to supervise the preparation of the accounts of the various agencies for which the Secretary of State was responsible. (fn. 66) In accordance with the arrangement made in 1866 the vacancies which occurred amongst the Senior Clerks in November 1868 and February 1869 were filled by the appointment of two additional Junior Clerks. (fn. 67) In February 1869 a new arrangement was made for the drafting of government bills which involved the transfer of the office of Parliamentary Counsel from the Home Office to the Treasury. (fn. 68) The Home Office thereby lost the assistance of an official upon whom it had come to rely for advice on a wide range of topics not immediately connected with the drafting of bills. To make good this deficiency the office of Legal Adviser was created in October of the same year. (fn. 69)
In 1870 the Home Secretary, Bruce, appointed a departmental committee, consisting of Rutson, his Private Secretary, Knatchbull Hugessen, the Parliamentary Under Secretary, and the Earl of Morley, a Lord in Waiting and the departmental representative in the House of Lords, to investigate the establishment. Their comprehensive report, (fn. 70) dated 9 December, contains a large amount of information about the staff and organisation of the office. The committee made a number of recommendations which were discussed with the Treasury. The consequential changes were not implemented until the following year and are, therefore, outside the scope of this volume.