Cabinet Secretariat, Records of

Repository: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Identity Statement

TitleCabinet Secretariat, Records of
Archive ReferenceGB 0255 PRONI/CAB
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1886-1979
Extent MediumContact PRONI Archives Service for information


Creator(s): Cabinet Secretariat

  • Administrative History ↴

    The Government of Ireland Act, 1920, provided for the establishment of devolved government in Northern Ireland. The Parliament of Northern Ireland, consisting of the sovereign, senate and house of commons, was based on the Westminster model which it was devolved from and subordinate to. The devolved parliament was given power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Northern Ireland subject to certain limitations. The Act set out a list of excepted and reserved matters over which the Northern Ireland parliament had no powers of legislation. Excepted matters included the Crown, peace and war, the armed forces and external trade while the principal reserved matters were the postal service and the major sources of revenue. The election to the Parliament of Northern Ireland was held on 24 May 1921 and the Ulster Unionist Party under the leadership of Sir James Craig won 40 of the 52 seats. The Lord Lieutenant then invited Craig to form a Government of Northern Ireland. The Government was formed on 7 June 1921 when, prior to the first meeting of the new parliament, the Lord Lieutenant established the Departments of the Government of Northern Ireland and appointed a Minister as the head of each of them. Craig closely modelled the practices and procedures of the Northern Ireland Parliament and Government on Westminster and Whitehall and this was reflected in the way the Cabinet system was adopted. In addition to the Department of the Prime Minister, there were six other departments - Finance, Home Affairs, Labour, Education, Agriculture and Commerce (although until 1925 the latter two departments were the responsibility of one minister). Normally meeting fortnightly, the Cabinet considered the various issues of a security, financial or economic nature appertaining to Northern Ireland as well as those political matters affecting its relations with the British Government or the Irish Free State. Administrative support to the Cabinet was provided by the Cabinet Secretariat, an integral part of the Department of the Prime Minister. The Cabinet Secretariat was extremely small but it too was modelled on London. The first Secretary to the Northern Ireland Cabinet was Wilfrid Spender, who picked up the ropes of running a Cabinet Secretariat during a two-day apprenticeship with Sir Maurice Hankey at the Cabinet Offices in London . Apart from the members of Cabinet itself, only the Secretary and Assistant Secretary were in attendance during all meetings although certain officials might be invited to attend for a specific item. -Extracted from a full account of the Cabinet of Secretariat Records
  • Archival History ↴

    Acquired directly from the Cabinet Secretariat
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Cabinet Secretariat ↴

    The collection documents a full history of how the Cabinet Secretariat operated in support of the Cabinet.
    Matters for discussion were raised by the circulation of memoranda in advance and were notified in the agenda; Ministers who wished to raise a matter orally were expected to notify the Prime Minister and other members in advance. The Conclusions, which are only a short summary of key points discussed and decisions reached, were circulated as soon as possible to those who had been present. The Private Secretary of each Minister then replied to indicate whether his Minister accepted the Conclusions as drafted or wanted to suggest amendments. In the event of the latter, and assuming the amendments were incorporated, the original and the final draft of the Conclusions were retained by the Cabinet Secretariat. The memoranda relating to issues discussed in cabinet were also retained as it was not the general practice to record information in the Conclusions which had already been detailed in the memoranda. In recording who was present for a meeting of the Cabinet or who was in attendance during a discussion on a particular item, the Conclusions do not name the persons concerned. Since it was the normal practice to refer to individuals by virtue of the office they held, it is necessary to know who held what office at what time. Appendix A lists all those who served in the Cabinet during the period in question, while Appendix C details all those who held junior government office. Police officers and senior civil servants frequently were in attendance to give a report or explain a particular topic, and Appendix D is an attempt to identify the main officials.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    Very little needs to be said about the arrangement of the archive, which is self-explanatory. As regards its content, files relating to the period 1921-43 are listed, while it is envisaged that a second volume will cover the Cabinet material relating to the premiership of Sir Basil Brooke (later Lord Brookeborough), 1943-63. In addition to including the minutes of Cabinet decisions (known as Conclusions), each file relating to a meeting contains an agenda, supporting memoranda and associated correspondence

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions The collection can be accessed in accordance with PRONI guidelines.
Conditions Governing ReproductionContact PRONI for guidelines
Creation Dates1886-1979
Extent MediumContact PRONI Archives Service for information
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids A descriptive list is available to search online at: Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

There are no Allied Materials

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NotePublic Record Office of Northern Ireland
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000. National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997. UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT)
Date of Descriptions41699