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1900-1920: Changing the nature of what the service does

Then Northcote and Trevelyan reported in 1854, around 40,000 people were employed by government departments whose focus was primarily advisory or regulatory.

Asquith’s Liberal Government of 1906 redefined what the State would and would not provide, with an increase of services to the citizen. With the introduction of old age pensions, the national insurance system and the opening of the Labour Exchange network, the Civil Service experienced a revolution.

Last updated - 18th February 2010

1900-1920: Changing the nature of what the service does

Labour Exchange Image

Then Northcote and Trevelyan reported in 1854, around 40,000 people were employed by government departments whose focus was primarily advisory or regulatory.

Asquith’s Liberal Government of 1906 redefined what the State would and would not provide, with an increase of services to the citizen. With the introduction of old age pensions, the national insurance system and the opening of the Labour Exchange network, the Civil Service experienced a revolution.

Winston Churchill, as President of the Board of Trade, oversaw the establishment of Labour Exchanges in 1910 (the illustration on this page shows the Exchange in Exeter).  The network -  430 main offices and 1000 small rural branches - represented a major expansion of the Civil Service outside of London and for the first time civil servants were directly working to deliver services to the public.

The Times reported that an ‘exceptionally high standard of capacity is characteristic of the more eligible applicants for the Labour Exchange appointment’. This was despite the fact that clerks in the Labour Exchange network earned less than the lowest paid clerks in the rest of the Civil Service.

By 1914 there were 282,429 civil servants.