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A Man and an Institution: Sir Maurice Hankey, the Cabinet by John F. Naylor

By John F. Naylor

The debate surrounding the book of Richard Crossman's cupboard Diaries (1975) delivered to the fore opposing options of 'open' and 'closed' govt inside Britain's loose society. whereas a stability has for the instant been struck about the secrecy of cupboard complaints, a old query continues to be: by way of what procedure, and with what effects, has reputable secrecy come to envelop the practices of recent cupboard govt? This publication tackles that key query, drawing upon a uniquely wide variety of respectable and personal papers to envision the old improvement of the cupboard workplace, the custodian of cupboard secrecy. tested by means of Lloyd George within the administrative chaos of 1916, the cupboard Secretariat - because it was once first identified - emerged because the principal service provider for the administration of cupboard company, operating heavily with the top Minister himself. In Sir Maurice Hankey's twenty-two-year time period as cupboard secretary, he presided over the institutionalisation of the Secretariat as an place of work unfastened from partisan taint and he in my view served all Britain's inter-war leading Ministers as confidant and influential consultant.

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Additional info for A Man and an Institution: Sir Maurice Hankey, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Custody of Cabinet Secrecy

Example text

162 However, Hankey acknowledged one exception to the precept that the views of individual War Cabinet ministers ought not be recorded: if he spoke upon a certain topic as an expert - he gave the diplomatic example of Curzon on India - then his views were recorded. ' 163 The Cabinet Secretary pointed as well to the use of the minutes as the means of informing the head of a concerned department of the War Cabinet's decision. Thus a concise resume of the arguments which lead to a decision served important informational needs, but fuller minutes would reveal the individual positions of War Cabinet ministers and could lead to invidious pressures emanating from the departments; in contrast, the resume protected the Cabinet's collective responsibility and eliminated any susceptibility to individual posturing for the record.

G. S. Adams, the' Garden Suburb' was organized in a manner not unlike Hankey's operation: each of Adams' four assistants advised on a particular group of topics in which he was knowledgeable, but other problems were investigated as they appeared. 136 With its tasks broadly defined ' to assist the Prime Minister in the discharge of the heavy responsibilities which fall upon him under the War Cabinet system,'137 the Prime Minister's Secretariat effectively found only discussion of military and naval policy beyond its scope; as it moved freely in other sectors, including foreign policy, conflict with departments was inherent in its operation.

In August 1917 a heated protest from Lord Curzon occasioned a resolution of the matter in a manner which proved decisive for the format of Cabinet Minutes. The irascible peer expressed concern bordering on outrage that his views on the proposed establishment of an Imperial War Museum had not been made a matter of record; while Hankey's minutes 36 A man and an institution attributed views to ministers outside the War Cabinet, there was no sign that he had even spoken! Hankey replied in a reflective vein: The system of record of Cabinet Minutes has always been a matter of great difficulty to me from the very first day that the War Cabinet was inaugurated.

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