Catalogue description Records created or inherited by the Transport Ministries, and by related bodies, and by the London Passenger Transport Board

Details of MT
Reference: MT
Title: Records created or inherited by the Transport Ministries, and by related bodies, and by the London Passenger Transport Board

Records of the Ministry of Transport, established in 1919 to oversee governmental policy relating to all forms of transport, are relevant to the administrative and operational functions of inland transport, ports, harbours, shipping and marine transport, to the nationalisation of the UK's major forms of transport, and reflect the functions of many predecessor and successor bodies.

For series created for regularly archived websites, please see the separate Websites Division.

Date: 1613-2010
Related material:

Records of the Department of the Environment and successors are in AT

Records of the National Bus Company are in FH

Records of the Department for Transport (2002- ) are in DFT

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Ministry of Transport, 1919-1941

Ministry of Transport, 1946-1953

Ministry of Transport, 1959-1970

Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, 1953-1959

Ministry of War Transport, 1941-1946

Physical description: 214 series
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

from 1997 Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Custodial history: Records were previously transferred to the Public Record Office from the Ministry of Transport from 1967 to 1970; the Department of the Environment from 1970-1976; and the Department of Transport from 1976 to 1997.
Administrative / biographical background:

Ministry of Transport, 1919 to 1941

The Ministry of Transport was established by the Ministry of Transport Act 1919 which provided for the transfer to the new ministry of powers and duties of any government department in respect of railways, light railways, tramways, canals and inland waterways, roads, bridges and ferries, and vehicles and traffic thereon, harbours, docks and piers.

In September 1919, all the powers of the Road Board, the Ministry of Health, and the Board of Trade in respect of transport, were transferred to the new ministry.

Initially, the department was organised to carry out supervisory, development and executive functions, but the end of railway and canal control by 1921, and the settlement of financial agreements relating to the wartime operations of the railways reduced its role. In 1923, the department was reorganised into three major sections: Secretarial; Finance; and Roads.

The ministry's functions were exercised initially throughout the United Kingdom. An Irish Branch was established in 1920, but then was taken over by the government of the Irish Free State on the transfer of functions in 1922.

The department took over transport functions of Scottish departments in the same year, though certain functions relating to local government, loan sanction, byelaws and housing were excepted. In May l937, power to make provisional orders for harbour, pier and ferry works was transferred to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The growth of road transport increased the responsibilities of the Ministry, and in the 1930s, and especially with defence preparations preceding the outbreak of war, government responsibilities for all means of transport increased significantly.

Ministry of War Transport, 1941 to 1946

The Ministry of War Transport was formed in May 1941 by merger of the Ministries of Shipping and of Transport, bringing shipping and inland transport, and particularly the operation of ports, under the control of a single department.

In October 1945, control of the Coastguard was transferred from the Admiralty.

In April 1946 the title changed to, the Ministry of Transport.

Ministry of Transport, 1946 to 1953

In 1946, the new Ministry of Transport inherited and retained both inland transport and shipping functions.

The 1947 Transport Act vested the principal railways in Great Britain in the British Transport Commission under the management of the Railway Executive, and the Minister of Transport became responsible to Parliament for general operation of the railways.

In 1948, the Ministry's highway powers were strengthened by transfer from the Ministry of Health of power to confirm compulsory purchase orders and to authorise acquisition of land for certain highway purposes; similar functions relating to acquisition of land by county councils for highway improvements were transferred from the Ministry of Local Government and Planning in May 1951.

In April 1950, management of Crown foreshores was transferred to the commissioners of Crown Lands.

Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, 1953 to 1959

The ministry was formed in October 1953 by merger of the Ministries of Transport and Civil Aviation. One aim of the merger was to associate civil aviation with the older forms of transport. However, civil aviation remained distinct within the department and maintained links with the Ministry of Supply and the Air Ministry.

In April l954, duties in connection with pensions of merchant seamen and fishermen disabled in the First World War were transferred to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.

Powers relating to construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and ferries in Scotland were transferred to the Department of Health for Scotland in April 1956.

In July 1959, the Air Traffic Control Board was appointed and made responsible jointly to the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation and the Secretary of State for Air. When, in October 1959, civil aviation functions were transferred to the Ministry of Supply on its reorganisation as the Ministry of Aviation, the department again reverted to its original title as the Ministry of Transport.

Ministry of Transport, 1959 to 1970

From 1959, the ministry was organised in three main branches: Inland Transport; Shipping; and Common Services.

Responsibility for civil construction and repair of ships was transferred from the Admiralty in November 1959, and a second parliamentary secretary, with special responsibility for shipping and shipbuilding, was appointed in April 1961. In February 1965, all merchant shipping and shipbuilding functions passed to the Board of Trade. The Sea Transport Division was similarly transferred in January 1969.

In October 1969, a secretary of state for local government and regional planning was appointed, to co-ordinate policy on local government, transport and regional planning. The minister of transport thus came under his direction, though statutory powers continued to be exercised by the department.

The post of secretary of state lapsed in June 1970, but in October 1970 the department was absorbed as a branch of the new Department of the Environment.

Department of the Environment, 1970 to 1976

In November 1970, the Department of the Environment was formed by merger of the Ministries of Housing and Local Government, Public Building and Works, and Transport.

The powers of the ministerial heads of the constituent ministries were transferred to a Secretary of State for the Environment, assisted by three junior ministers. One of these assistant ministers was responsible for transport industries, ports, nationalised transport industries, inland waterways, road safety and recreation. He was renamed the Minister for Transport in 1974.

In 1976 a new Department of Transport responsible to its own secretary of state was established.

Department of Transport, 1976 to 1997

The new Department of Transport was responsible for: inland surface transport industries, including British Rail, the bus industry, freight and ports, the national motorway and trunk road network. The department had oversight of local authorities' transport planning, road safety, vehicle regulation and inspection, bus and road freight licensing and driver and vehicle licensing.

By July 1983, the department had assimilated the functions of the Department of Trade for sea and air transport, including sponsorship of the national airline industry, for airports, domestic and civil aviation, shipping, pilotage, HM Coastguard and marine pollution. .

In 1984 responsibility for London Transport passed to the department, and in 1985 the department became responsible for regulation of taxis and private hire cars, previously the responsibility of the Home Office.

In 1990, agency status was acquired by certain sections of the Department of Transport. Further agencies were created in April 1994.

In May 1997 the Department of Transport and its functions became part of the newly formed Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions; then in 2001 of the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions; becoming separate again in 2002 as the Department for Transport.

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