Catalogue description Records of the Legal Department

Details of Division within MAF
Reference: Division within MAF
Title: Records of the Legal Department

Records of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and its predecessors.

Records relating to the Forestry Commission are in MAF 50. Records of the Parliamentary Branch are in MAF 53 and MAF 375. Records of court hearings are in MAF 270

Unregistered opinion and advice files are in MAF 411

Date: 1920-1980
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Legal Department, 1919-1955

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Legal Department, 1955-2001

Physical description: 5 series
Administrative / biographical background:

Legal Departments: Functions

The Legal Departments' responsibilities are to advise on bills and other parliamentary business, to conduct litigation, to assist with interpretation and application of the statutory functions of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and its predecessors, and (until 1982) to conduct conveyancing and other legal business of estates vested in the minister.

Legal Departments pre-1982

In 1878 the Enclosure Commissioners appointed a legal adviser and solicitor whose office continued under the Land Commissioners from 1882. In 1889 this was absorbed into the Board of Agriculture where a Law Branch (also known at various times as the Legal Branch, Legal Department or Legal Advisers) was established. In 1919 this became the Legal Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, acting also for the Office of Woods. In 1945 it assumed responsibilities for the Forestry Commission from the Treasury Solicitor. In 1955 it became part of the amalgamated Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. From 1972 the department acted for the Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce.

In 1973 the department was organised into seven divisions (A to G) functioning on a subject basis:

  • A: civil litigation, prosecutions, capital and investment grants, foodstuffs, fertilisers and lime, farm structures and, later, labour and wages matters;
  • B: fisheries matters, plant health, variety rights, seeds, pests, and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew;
  • C: food, marketing, slaughterhouse questions;
  • D: animal health and welfare, farm safety, horticulture, Agricultural Wages Board and, later, veterinary medicines;
  • E: land drainage, compulsory purchases and compensation, Forestry Commission and agricultural holdings;
  • F: conveyancing; European Economic Community matters (including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Intervention Board);
  • G: commons registration, competition and fair trading and other general legal questions not covered by Divisions A to E.

In 1980 the department was further sub-divided into two groups:

  • Group A which consisted of five Legal Divisions: A1 (formerly Div A); A2 (formerly Div D); A3 (former Div E, plus real property advice but excluding Forestry Commission matters); A4 (former Div F, plus Forestry Commission matters); and A5 (commons registration and conveyancing for Intervention Board property).
  • Group B, which consisted of three Legal Divisions: B1 (formerly Div B); B2 (formerly Div C); and B3 (dealing with CAP, the Intervention Board, competition and fair trading and litigation in the European Court of Justice).

This general arrangement continued until 1982 when the work of the Legal Divisions in both groups was re-organised.

Legal Department, Parliamentary Branch, 1945-

In November 1945 this branch was established in the Legal Department, reporting directly to the principal private secretary, to deal with parliamentary questions, statutory instruments, private bills and the preparation of public agricultural bills, honours procedure, and preparation and presentation of reports and white papers. Before that date this work was done by the minister's clerks and, for private bills, by an individual with experience in such matters in Lands Division. Responsibility for this branch was transferred to Establishment Department in 1946.

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