The Treasury was responsible for raising money and managing Royal properties prior to the Norman conquest. The Normans introduced a centralised government. In the 12th century, the Exchequer took up permanent residence in the Palace of Westminster.
In the early days, the Treasury quite literally comprised precious articles, jewels, crowns etc., gold. There were two Exchequers, a lower and an upper. The upper was essentially an auditing entity; the lower dealt with payment and receipts of money. In the 12th century, the Exchequer began to keep records.
The early tallies comprised pieces of wood split in two, one-half being given to the payee, one to the Exchequer. Written records accompanied the holding of physical tallies by the 12th century.
Early Senior Civil Servants
The early civil servants were clerics with an ability to keep accounts in the numerical system and to write in French, Latin and English. Lay men entered the civil service by the 14th century, though they did not hold the highest posts for some considerable period.
The heads of the Exchequer Chancery and Privy Seal were ecclesiastics. The Exchequer contained few clergymen, but Chancery was entirely staffed by clergymen. Chancery looked after diplomacy, foreign policy and legal matters.
In the earliest times, civil servants were attached to the court with payment comprising a small salary, lodgings and the necessaries of life. A certain element of payment from the fees of the office was involved. Originally the offices were themselves bought and sold.
By the middle of the fourteenth century, laymen became heads of the Treasury and Chancery for the first time, but later in that century the role of clerics had reduced.
Revenue & Financial Control
The medieval system of auditing lasted into the 19th century. In 1834, a simplified accounting system was introduced, and ultimately the modern system of exchequer accounting was established in 1866 under the Exchequer and Audit Department Acts with an audit office under the exchequer and audit department.
When a Department wishes to spend money, it required Treasury sanction. The expenditure must be justified and authorised. Each Department is required to send estimates for their expenditure for the next financial year annually. Actual expenditures and returns were checked against authorised expenditures and compared to single line items for previous years.
The revenue departments, customs and excise and inland revenue submit estimates of their income. This formed the basis of the budget. A draft budget was prepared for each department and for other expenditure and financial costs. Parliamentary approval is required for each estimate.
In the early years of the Plantagenet monarchs the King’s clerk was an ordinary household official. Later in the 15th century he became the King’s secretary. In the reign of Henry, the VIII, the King’s secretary became the most powerful minister on account of his close personal relationship with the King.
Prior to 1534 the office had been held by a cleric. The first layman holding office was Thomas Cromwell. He concentrated a substantial part of the administration in his hands. He was effectively foreign minister, home minister, organiser of armies, the President of the Star Chamber, and Vicar General of the Church.
Later, the offices were divided up and two secretaries were appointed. Ultimately, foreign and colonial affairs went to one secretary and home affairs to another. The foreign office and Home Office grew from these offices.
At the end of the 18th century the Home Secretary’s duties in military matters were transferred to the secretary of state for war who became responsible for colonial affairs in 1801.
The Home Office was responsible for managing numerous pieces of legislation. The industrial and factory legislation was under the auspices of the Home Office.
The Home Secretary was one of the principal secretaries of state in the early 20th century. The others dealt with foreign affairs, war, colonial affairs, India, Dominion affairs and Scottish affairs.Working Conditions
One of the earliest pieces of legislation was the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act which required children’s working hours to be reduced to 12 per day. The legislation had no effective means of enforcement. The Cotton Mills Act 1819 was similarly toothless.
The Factories Act was introduced in 1833 and prohibited employment of children under nine years. Young persons were to be employed for not more than nine hours a day. Those between 13 and 18 were limited to 12 hours a day. Importantly, a factory inspector was appointed to enforce the legislation.
The regular reports of the factory inspectors ushered in further reforms. In 1848, under intense pressure including huge Chartist demonstrations and threats of revolution, a ten-hours per day bill was passed.
The Home Secretary and Home Office are responsible for law and order. The office supervises the police and fixes various particulars regarding police terms and conditions.
A prison inspectorate came under the control of the Home Office in 1835.
The Children’s Act 1908 largely prohibited imprisonment for persons below 16. Persons between 12 and 16 were to be sent to reformatory school. Children under 14 found in conditions which might be likely to lead them to criminal habits were sent to industrial schools, leaving at age 16. They generally remained under supervision for two years after leaving school.
The probation office was under the auspices of the Home Office. The Home Office supervised firearms. Explosives were licensed by the Home Office and regulated.
The intoxicating liquor licensing legislation was administered by it. So too, was legislation on dangerous drug and trafficking of persons.
Justices of the peace appointed constables and special constables from Norman times. The system remained largely unchanged until the early 19th century. The Metropolitan Police Force was established in 1829. The Home Secretary had powers to commute sentences including the death sentence.
Board of Trade I
The Council of Trade was established in the early 17th century, the forerunner of the Board of Trade. It was reconstituted in the late 17th century as the Board of Trade and Plantations. The primary purpose of the Board of Trade was to promote and support manufacturing. The sought to inquire as to how colonies might be rendered more beneficial to the King.
Much of the Board’s powers were reduced through the 18th century and passed to the Secretary of State. In the middle of the century the Board had its authority re-established before later losing much of its power again. Most of the colonial business was absorbed by the secretaries of state.
The Board remained at a modest level until the middle of the 19th century. Since then, a range of legislation conferred powers on the board. In 1849 the Navigation Acts was repealed as part of a free trade policy. In 1850 the Mercantile Marine Act made the Board responsible for shipping administration.
Shortly afterwards the Merchant Shipping Act and many later pieces of legislation conferred administrative powers on the Board. By the late 19th century nearly 2000 officers were employed by the Mercantile Marine Department of the Board. It took over responsibility for lighthouses and Coast Guard.
Board of Trade II
The Board of Trade had entered the industrial field in 1886 due to the economic effect of widespread strike. Its initial duties involved collection of statistics,. In 1893 a special labour department was formed.
The Department published figures in relation to unemployment, strikes, wages etc. Shortly after this, the Board was given powers by Parliament to undertake conciliation in industrial dispute.
In 1909 labour exchanges were established through the United Kingdom. In 1911 the National Insurance Act gave exchanges the function of administering unemployment insurance and a new department was found in the Board of Trade to carry out the works involved.
The Ministry for Labour was established in 1916, being principally an offshoot of the Board of Trade. Many of the above duties were ultimately transferred to the Ministry of Labour when established during the First World War.