Government Legal Department

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Government Legal Department
Welsh: Adran Gyfreithiwr y Trysorlys
Government Legal Department.png
HomeOffice QueenAnnesGate.jpg
Non-ministerial government department overview
Formed1876 (1876)
Jurisdiction United Kingdom
Headquarters102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9GL
Annual budget£114.7 million (2009-2010) [1]
Ministers responsible
Non-ministerial government department executive

The Government Legal Department (previously called the Treasury Solicitor's Department) is the largest in-house legal organisation in the United Kingdom's Government Legal Service.


The Department is headed by the Treasury Solicitor. This office goes back several centuries. The office was enshrined in law by the Treasury Solicitor Act 1876, which established the Treasury Solicitor as a corporation sole (an office with perpetual succession). [3] Employees of the department exercise legal powers which are vested in the corporation sole.

The department is a non-ministerial government department and executive agency. [4] The Treasury Solicitor reports to the Attorney General for England and Wales. The department employs more than 1,900 solicitors and barristers to provide advice and legal representation on a huge range of issues to many government departments.


The department was historically known as the Treasury Solicitor's Department, but changed name to the Government Legal Department on 1 April 2015. The new name reflects a "significant period of change", which saw the department double in size to 2,000 staff. [5]

The head of the department combines the ancient office of King's Proctor (or Queen's Proctor) with that of Treasury Solicitor. He has the formal title of Her Majesty's Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor (the Monarch currently being female). The office is currently held by Susanna McGibbon [2] who succeeded Sir Jonathan Jones after his resignation on 8 September 2020. [6] He is also the Chief Executive of the department as an executive agency.


Government Legal Department lawyers work in both advisory and litigation roles. In litigation, lawyers bring and defend legal proceedings involving central government and related bodies. In advisory teams, lawyers provide advice to ministers and civil servants on both the current law and on proposed Government policies and future legislation.

The department is the authorised address for service of proceedings on most government departments, by virtue of the list published under the Crown Proceedings Act 1947.

In England (with the exception of Lancashire, Manchester and Cornwall, where the function is delegated to Farrer & Co), the Treasury Solicitor is the Crown's nominee for the collection and disposition of ownerless property ( bona vacantia ). [7] This typically comprises the assets of dissolved companies and the estates of persons who die intestate and with no known kin.

List of HM Procurators-General and Treasury Solicitors

King's Proctor/Procurators General

The office of King's (or Queen's) Proctor is ancient; it also came to be known as HM Procurator General. [8] The following were King's or Queen's Proctor after 1660: [9]

Treasury Solicitor

Historically, there were two solicitors in the Treasury. The first (The Solicitor for Negotiating and Looking after the Affairs of the Treasury), which existed alone until 1696, had become a sinecure by 1744, and perhaps as early as 1716; from the late 18th century the office included a salary of £200 a year. It was abolished in 1800. A second Treasury Solicitor, the precursor of the modern office, was established in 1696 and was assigned all the legal business undertaken in Westminster Hall; as the first Solicitor became a sinecure, the second Solicitor became the only one responsible for legal business. By 1786, its office-holder was carrying out legal work for other secretaries of state and the Attorney-General, and in the early nineteenth century was employed by other government departments as well. From 1794, the Solicitor was also barred from running their own private practice. The salary began at £500, increased to £1,000 in 1755 and then to £2,000 in 1794; until the 1830s, the Solicitor also charged fees for work done in departments outside the Treasury, but these were then abolished and he received an allowance of £850 in addition to his salary. The whole salary was fixed at £2,000 in 1851, and then increased to £2,500 in 1872. [15] The following were Treasury Solicitors after 1660. [15]

Treasury Solicitor (I; a sinecure by 1744 and abolished in 1800)

Treasury Solicitor (II; from 1696)

Procurators General and Treasury Solicitor

In 1876, Augustus Keppel Stephenson, the Treasury Solicitor, was appointed Queen's Proctor and Procurator General; since then, the offices of Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor have been held together. [20] By 1971, the office came with a salary of £14,000 a year. [21] The following have been jointly HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor: [22]

See also

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  1. HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor Resource Accounts 2009-2010 (PDF), HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor, 30 June 2010, archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2011, retrieved 19 December 2010
  2. 1 2
  3. "Our history". Treasury Solicitor's Department. 2013. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  4. "Treasury Solicitor's Department". GOV.UK. 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  5. "Treasury Solicitor's Department announces name change". Website of the Government of the United Kingdom. 18 February 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  6. Elgot, Jessica; Syal, Rajeev (8 September 2020). "UK's top legal civil servant quits 'over Brexit deal changes'". The Guardian . Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  7. "About TSol". Treasury Solicitor's Department. 2013. Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  8. 1 2 "HM Procurator General: Report Books, Series I", The National Archives. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  9. J. C. Sainty, "King's Proctor, 1660–1876" (Institute of Historical Research, February 2003). Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  10. The London Gazette , 17 May 1783 (issue 12441), p. 1.
  11. The London Gazette , 24 July 1804 (issue 15722), p. 900.
  12. 1 2 The London Gazette , 28 November 1815 (issue 17085), p. 2377.
  13. 1 2 The London Gazette , 28 January 1845 (issue 20436), p. 247.
  14. 1 2 The London Gazette , 4 August 1876 (issue 24351), p. 4374.
  15. 1 2 "Solicitors and Assistant-Solicitors, 1660–1870", in J. C. Sainty, Office-Holders in Modern Britain, vol. 1 (University of London, 1972), pp. 97–98.
  16. According to another source, he was appointed jointly with one "Mr. East" ( The Nineteenth Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1856) p. 14), but Sainty says that this appointment, along with the proposed appointment of one Mr. Collyer in 1711, "never became effective" (Sainty, Office-Holders of Modern Britain, i, 97–98, fn. 18.
  17. J. Venn and J. A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, vol. 2, part 2 (Cambridge University Press, 1947) pp. 138–139.
  18. The Solicitors' Journal and Reporter, vol. 15 (1871), p. 386.
  19. "Gray, John (1807–1875)", Dictionary of National Biography , vol. 23 (Macmillan and Co., 1890), p. 8.
  20. 1 2 Wendie Ellen Schneider, Engines of Truth: Producing Veracity in the Victorian Courtroom (Yale University Press, 2015), pp. 157–158.
  21. "‘Watchdog’ on divorces to retire", The Daily Telegraph, 24 June 1971, p. 2.
  22. Roger Mortimore and Andrew Blick (eds.), Butler's British Political Facts (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), p. 533.
  23. London Gazette , 26 October 1894 (issue 26564), p. 6005.