Select Committee on Public Service Report



  8.    In 1967 there were nearly half a million Civil Servants[1]. Of these, approximately 135,000 were clerical officers; 86,000 were executive staff; 82,000 were clerical assistants; 82,000 were professional, scientific or technical; 35,000 were messengerial; 30,000 were typists; and fewer than 3,000 were administrative[2].


  9.    During that year the number of Civil Servants had risen by about 20,000. The increase was attributable to a number of factors.

6,000 staff were recruited in the field of Social Security to administer a new earnings-related sickness benefit and a new supplementary benefits scheme.

4,000 staff were recruited to the Ministry of Labour largely to deal with the fact there were higher levels of unemployment (and thus increased work to be done in the administration of unemployment benefits and redundancy payments; the Government's training programme was also expanding).

2,600 staff were recruited to the Board of Trade to deal with the Investment Grants Scheme, increased export services and new companies legislation.

2,500 extra staff were needed at the Inland Revenue as a result of reforms in the tax system (in particular, these reforms related to Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, and the Betterment Levy).

2,300 staff joined the Home Office to meet the needs of the rising prison population, and to work on closer security measures, police communications, immigration and forensic science.

Just over 2,000 extra staff were needed to work in Defence to assist with the setting up of the Operational Analysis Establishment and the Directorate of Standardisation.

1,500 staff were recruited to Customs and Excise, to deal with increased trade, the diversification of international travel, the export rebates scheme and the betting tax.


  10.    In 1967 Civil Servants were recruited to particular classes, depending on the kind of work applied for and the qualifications required for it. Each class had its own career structure and pay scale. There were 47 general service and similar classes whose members were distributed across the service as a whole, and 1,400 departmental classes whose members worked in one department only. The system of classes therefore divided the service both horizontally (between higher and lower in the same broad area of work) and vertically (between different skills, professions and disciplines).

  11.    This system of personnel classification has its origins in the Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1853 on The Organization of the Permanent Civil Service. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report brought about the end of the system of patronage, and instituted recruitment and promotion on merit. Entrance examinations were introduced, and two main categories of clerks were recruited through them: superior, or higher class clerks (who were men with a university education) and inferior, or secondary, class clerks (recruited from men who had received a good general education). A distinction was made between intellectual work and routine work, and the Northcote-Trevelyan Report stressed the need to employ superior grade clerks on good class work from the early years of their service, so as to avoid mental deterioration in men of high calibre. The class system became well established and stable, and was still recognisable in the Home Civil Service as late as 1967.


  12.    In 1967, responsibility for the recruitment of Civil Servants was shared. The Treasury was responsible for recruitment policy; the selection of candidates was made by the Civil Service Commission[3]; and the candidates they recruited were then appointed to particular posts by individual departments. The Commission at that time consisted of six Commissioners, appointed by Order in Council to ensure their independence. On 31st December 1966 the Commission had a staff of 652, and its annual expenditure was over £l.5 million. In 1967 it ran 399 recruitment competitions for the Civil Service (of which 377 were open competitions and 22 were competitions limited to serving Civil Servants). It dealt with 103,610 applicants, and declared 27,276 candidates to have been successful.

  13.    In addition to Civil Service recruitment, the Commission, acting as an agent, conducted a variety of examinations for other bodies including the Navy, Army and Air Force, and the Police Examinations Board.


  14.    In 1967, pay and conditions of service were formulated using the system of classification of staff described in paragraph 10. Most classes had a stated scale of pay and it was normal for staff to proceed by annual increments from the point of entry to the maximum. This progression was subject to reviews, and members of staff receiving an adverse report had their increment withheld. Since 1919, negotiations on pay and conditions of service had been conducted in the National Whitley Council. The Whitley Council brought together representatives of the 'official' side (dominated by Treasury officials) and the 'staff' side (representatives of the staff associations). If the National Whitley Council failed to reach agreement, either side could go to arbitration.

  15.    The Priestley Royal Commission on the Civil Service (1953-55) had recommended that certain criteria be used to enable fair comparison of pay to be made with staff outside the service employed on broadly comparable work. In 1967, Civil Service pay scales were still determined largely on the basis of comparisons made using these criteria. One such criterion was the consideration of evidence produced by the Pay Research Unit (PRU) (which had been set up in 1956 following the report of Royal Commission).


  16.    In 1967 the Civil Service College had not yet been set up. Training was largely the responsibility of departments, although in 1963 a Centre for Administrative Studies had been opened. This Centre developed a programme which included three-week courses on the structure of Government. Such courses were intended for Assistant Principals (i.e. graduates recruited directly to the lowest grade in the Administrative Class) about six months after recruitment. There were also 20-week courses on economics, statistics, industry, and the operation of business companies. These courses were intended for Assistant Principals in their third year of service. By 1967 the Centre was running two of each of these types of course each year.


  17.    The definitions of the terms 'Civil Service' and 'department' have been much debated. Despite this debate, it is clear that in 1967 Government departments, funded directly by monies voted by Parliament, were the main institutions for carrying out Government policy. The staff of these departments were officials who had been recruited into the service on a permanent basis, and most of them expected to establish a career there. In 1967 there were 326,265 permanent non-industrial Civil Servants.

  18.    The way in which responsibility for the functions of Government is distributed is, and was in 1967, a matter for decision by Ministers. Table 1 below gives some idea of the size of some of the major departments in that year:

Department Non-industrial staff numbers
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food   11,360
Cabinet Office   333
Civil Service Commission   561,
County Courts   4,534
Customs and Excise   15,806
Ministry of Defence   70,272
Department of Economic Affairs   382
Department of Education and Science   3,485
Ministry of Health   4,604
Home Office   14,111
Ministry of Housing and Local Government   3,348
Inland Revenue   44,886
Ministry of Labour   17,980
Ministry of Power   1,379
Ministry of Public Building and Works   14,678
Scottish Departments (total)   7,570
Ministry of Social Security   47,021
Ministry of Technology   15,014
Board of Trade   12,807
Ministry of Transport   5,774
Treasury and subordinate Departments   440
Treasury Solicitor's Department   306
Welsh Office   408

(Figures provided by the OPS)

  19.    The broad division of departmental responsibilities for the main fields of Governmental activity in 1967, as given by the Central Office of Information, is shown in Table 2 below:

Function Chief Departments Responsible
Central Government, Law and Order Cabinet Secretariat, Department of Economic Affairs, Home Office, Treasury, Lord Chancellor's Department, Law Officer's Department.
Defence Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Technology
Finance and development Department of Economic Affairs, Treasury, Board of Trade, Ministries of: Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Housing and Local Government, Labour, Power, Transport and Technology.
Post and revenue Post Office, Boards of Inland Revenue and of Customs and Excise, Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.
Social services Department of Education and Science, Ministries of: Health, Housing and Local Government, and Social Security.
Foreign and Commonwealth Foreign Office, Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Overseas Development.
Common services (for other departments) Ministry of Public Building and Works, HM Stationery Office, Central Office of Information, Government Social Survey Department.
Scotland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, the Scottish Development Department, the Scottish Education Department, and the Scottish Home and Health Department.
Wales Welsh Office

(NB  There was no separate department for Northern Ireland, as Northern Ireland still had its own Parliament until 1972. The Home Secretary acted as the official channel of communications between the Governments of the United Kingdom and of Northern Ireland.)


  20.    In addition to departments and sub-departments, there were in 1967 many advisory and other bodies. Some of these were required by statute, others were simply set up by Ministers to meet a particular need. Exhaustive information about those in existence in 1967 is not available in a collated form. A few examples are given in Appendix 3.


  21.    In 1967 half of the Treasury's staff were employed in the familiar areas of public expenditure, home and overseas finance, and the co-ordination of economic policy: the other half were engaged in work related to the Treasury's other role of controlling and managing the Civil Service.

  22.    The Treasury's management of the Civil Service arose not only from an Order in Council, but also by virtue of the Treasury's control of monies voted by Parliament. In addition, in the nineteenth century, various Superannuation Acts were passed which required the Treasury to sanction the grant of any pension. Various unifying factors caused the Civil Service to cohere very tightly. The Northcote-Trevelyan legacy of open competitive entrance examinations and service-wide classification of staff, together with the creation of the Civil Service Commission, produced a uniform, unified service which lent itself to being managed as a single entity. In the 1920s and 1930s, Sir Warren Fisher (who was at the time Head of the Civil Service) made positive efforts to bind the Civil Service even more tightly into a unified, coherent structure. That the Treasury emerged as the department to manage the Civil Service may well have been due in the first instance to the "power of the purse".

  23.    By 1967 the Treasury controlled appointments policy and salaries; it issued circulars and minutes on matters of discipline; it took responsibility for the official side of the National Whitley Council. Structurally, the Treasury's responsibilities for the Civil Service were concentrated in two places: first, in the group of divisions which dealt with the pay and working conditions of the various classes of Civil Servants; and secondly in the management group of divisions, which were responsible for pioneering new methods of work, for enquiries into management practices over a wide field, and for work on recruitment, training, manning and grading in the Civil Service. Moreover, since the time of Warren Fisher, the Treasury's Permanent Secretary had been known also as the Head of the Civil Service.

1   (Paragraph 8) These staff were permanent. The figure does not include industrial staff or staff working for the Post Office. Back

2   (Paragraph 8) If temporary staff and Post Office minor and manipulative staff are included in the figure, the total number of civil service staff in 1968 was over three quarters of a million. Back

3   (Paragraph 12) The Civil Service Commission recruited all permanent civil servants. An Order in Council made in 1956 had given Departments authority to select their own temporary staff. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1998