Norman Brook

  • Kevin Theakston
Part of the Transforming Government book series (TRGO)


‘There are three civil servants who have to know everything that’s going on’, a former permanent secretary told Anthony Sampson when he was first ‘anatomising’ the British Establishment in the early 1960s. ‘One is the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary; another is the Secretary to the Cabinet; the other is the senior permanent secretary to the Treasury.’ Norman Brook was at that time two of them: Secretary of the Cabinet (1947–62) and Joint Permanent Secretary of the Treasury and Head of the Home Civil Service (1956–62). This combination of offices and his personal prestige gave him unrivalled influence inside government. ‘No one in Whitehall, politician or civil servant, knows as much as Brook’, commented Sampson. ‘For twenty years he has been in the heart of government’. ‘Infinitely unobtrusive… impenetrably discreet’, he was ‘the central cog in the British government machine’.1


Prime Minister Civil Servant Senior Official Grammar School Cabinet Minister 
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  1. 1.
    Anthony Sampson, Anatomy of Britain (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1962), p. 244.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lord Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival 1940–1965 (London: Constable, 1965), pp. 699–700; The Guardian, 16 June 1967; Douglas Jay, Change and Fortune: A Political Record (London: Hutchinson, 1980), p. 95.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    John Wheeler-Bennett, John Anderson, Viscount Waverley (London: Macmillan, 1962); Thomas Jones, Whitehall Diary, vol. II, 1926–30 (Oxford: OUP, 1971), p. 263; Lord Normanbrook evidence to the Fulton Committee, CCS(66) 17th meeting, 5.7.66, PRO BA1/3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 14.
    Alec Cairncross (ed.), The Robert Hall Diaries 1947–53 (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), pp. 164, 207; Brook to PM, 14.2.62, PRO PREM 11/3757.Google Scholar
  5. 23.
    Peter Hennessy, Cabinet (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 18–19. For examples of Brook’s ‘steering briefs’, see: Brook to PM, 19.7.54, PRO PREM 11/658; Brook to PM, 21.1.56, PREM 11/1324; Brook to PM, 24.1.62, PREM 11/3757.Google Scholar
  6. 24.
    Peter Hennessy, Whitehall (London: Secker and Warburg, 1989), p. 147; Brook to PM, 13.10.49, PRO PREM 8/1415 (part 2); Brook to PM, 29.5.48, PREM 8/1489 (part 2).Google Scholar
  7. 37.
    George Mallaby, From My Level (London: Hutchinson, 1965), pp. 16–17.Google Scholar
  8. 46.
    Hugh Thomas, The Suez Affair (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1970), pp. 127–8.Google Scholar
  9. 47.
    William Clark, From Three Worlds (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1986), pp. 168, 172. This and following paragraphs also draw on Keith Kyle’s paper on Brook given at the Institute of Contemporary British History conference on ‘British Officials and the Suez Crisis’ (Dec. 1996).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kevin Theakston 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Theakston
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsUK

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