Members of Parliament can be regarded as the front-end, public-facing partners of His/Her Majesty’s Home Civil Service (HCS), an organisation which is tasked with the nuts-and-bolts administration of the country. HCS employees are called civil servants but they are actually Crown servants and they populate dozens of departments and specialist agencies covering numerous aspects of government control.
The total number of civil servants, which has been over a million and is currently (2022) around half that, varies according to prevailing political factors, such as:-
- nationalisation/privatisation of major industries
- report recommendations on recruitment/redundancy
- Parliament’s desire to follow new, untried, far-reaching policies
The origins of the HCS lie in the small teams of clerks who assisted court appointees. These teams, or secretariats, blossomed with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire, but by the mid-1800s it was recognised that the whole body needed overhauling and regulation, with entrance examinations and promotion given on merit. Indeed the size and efficiency of the HCS has been a regular topic for parliamentary consideration. HCS careers can be tailored to one department or many and range from leadership and responsibility for policy formation and implementation, to administrative office work and boots-on-the-ground tasks.
(Image of civil servants in training: UK CivilService at Flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)