1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Home Office

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HOME OFFICE, a principal government department in the United Kingdom, the creation of which dates from 1782, when the conduct of foreign affairs, which had previously been divided between the northern and southern secretaries, was handed over to the northern department (see Foreign Office). The home department retained control of Irish and colonial affairs, and of war business until 1794, when an additional secretary of state was re-appointed. In 1801 the colonial business was transferred from the home department, which now attends only to domestic affairs. The head of the department, the principal secretary of state for home affairs, or home secretary, is a member of the government for the time being, and of the cabinet, receiving a salary of £5000 a year. He is the proper medium of communication between the sovereign and the subject, and receives petitions addressed to the crown. He is responsible for the maintenance of the king’s peace and attends to the administration of criminal justice, police and prisons, and through him the sovereign exercises his prerogative of mercy. Within his department is the supervision of lunatic asylums, reformatories and industrial schools, and it is his duty to see after the internal well-being of the country, to enforce the rules made for the health or safety of the community generally, and especially of those classes employed in special trades or dangerous occupations. He is assisted by a permanent under-secretary, a parliamentary secretary and several assistant under-secretaries.

See Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution. (1907).