Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies
|Title:||Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies|
Records of the Home Office concerning supervision of the internal affairs of Great Britain, with particular emphasis on law, order and regulation.
For series created for regularly archived websites, please see the separate Websites Division.
|Held by:||The National Archives, Kew|
|Legal status:||Public Record(s)|
Home Office, 1782-
|Physical description:||539 series|
|Closure status:||Open Document, Open Description|
|Access conditions:||Open unless otherwise stated|
|Administrative / biographical background:||
Before 1782 state business relating to the UK's internal affairs was shared by the two Principal Secretaries of State. In 1782 they were given charge of home and foreign affairs respectively.
The Home Office was formed from the staff of the former Southern Department.
The functions of the Home Secretary derive from two main sources: royal prerogative and parliamentary legislation. He is the residuary of all functions relating to the UK's internal affairs not assigned to other departments of state. Main functions in 1782 were: answering petitions and addresses to Sovereign; advising Sovereign on royal grants, warrants and commissions and exercise of royal prerogative; issuing instructions on behalf of Sovereign to officers of the Crown, Lords Lieutenant and magistrates, mainly concerning law and order; and operation of Secret Service within UK. He is also responsible for protecting the public and safeguarding the rights and liberties of the individual.
After 1782 more specific functions were added, of which the following are still exercised by the Home Office: regulation of aliens (from 1793); naturalisation (1844); penal system (1823); police service (1829); control of explosives (1875), firearms (1920), dangerous drugs (from the First World War) and poisons (1933); electoral administration (taken over from Ministry of Health in 1921); civil defence (1935); and fire services (1938).
Some minor functions were transferred from other departments: appointment and supervision of Railway and Canal Commissioners from Board of Trade in 1919; confirmation of certain byelaws in 1947, and regulation of markets and fairs in 1948, from Ministry of Health; grants for school crossing patrols from Ministry of Education in 1953; and regulation of escape-ways in certain buildings from Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1964.
The Home Secretary is responsible for the confirmation of local authority byelaws concerning good rule and government, parks and pleasure grounds, and street trading. Other local authority byelaws (public health, nuisance, buildings) are the responsibility of the successors to the Ministry of Health.
Since 1782, some responsibilities have been transferred from the Home Secretary to other departments:
In the nineteenth century the Home Office retained administrative work but delegated executive duties to semi-autonomous sub-departments or external agencies responsible to Home Secretary. These included Aliens Office, State Paper Office and Signet Office. In 1836 Aliens Office and in 1851 Signet Office were absorbed in Home Office. The State Paper Office was placed under Master of the Rolls in 1852. The Home Secretary supervised General Board of Health and its successor the Local Government Act Office, and some standing commissions and in 1960 the Charity Commission. In 1963 Prison Commission was absorbed as Prison Department of the Home Office.
More directly linked with the Home Office were some inspectorates. The Factory Department and Mines Department and Fisheries, Burial Grounds, Explosives, Anatomy, Inebriates, Vivisection, Constabulary and Reformatories Inspectorates functioned as separate units. They were associated with general and later specialised administrative departments of the Home Office.
Specialised administrative departments were eg: Criminal Department, Police and Statistical Branch, Industrial Department (after 1896), Aliens Division (1904), Police Department (First World War), Children's Department and Northern Ireland Department (1924). New functions led to creation of Probation, Fire Services, Air Raid Precautions, Civil Defence, Finance, Establishment and Organisation Departments; and specialised branches eg Legal Advisor's Branch and Scientific Advisory Branch were set up.