Government Legal Department



The Government Legal Department (previously called the Treasury Solicitor's Department) is the largest in-house legal organisation in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and No ...
'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 A corporation sole is a legal entity consisting of a single ("sole") incorporated office, occupied by a single ("sole") natural person.
(an office with perpetual succession). Employees of the department exercise legal powers which are vested in the corporation sole. The department is a
non-ministerial government department Non-ministerial government departments (NMGDs) are a type of department of the United Kingdom government that deal with matters for which direct political oversight has been judged unnecessary or inappropriate. They are headed by senior civil s ...
executive agency An executive agency is a part of a government department that is treated as managerially and budgetarily separate, to carry out some part of the executive functions of the United Kingdom government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government or No ...
. The Treasury Solicitor reports to the
Attorney General for England and Wales His Majesty's Attorney General for England and Wales is one of the law officers of the Crown and the principal legal adviser to sovereign and Government in affairs pertaining to England and Wales. The attorney general maintains the Attorney G ...
. The department employs more than 1,900
solicitor A solicitor is a legal practitioner who traditionally deals with most of the legal matters in some jurisdictions. A person must have legally-defined qualifications, which vary from one jurisdiction to another, to be described as a solicitor and ...
s and
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, researching law and givin ...
s 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. The head of the department combines the ancient office of King's Proctor with that of
Treasury Solicitor 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 g ...
. She has the formal title of His Majesty's Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor. The office is currently held by Susanna McGibbon who succeeded Sir Jonathan Jones after his resignation on 8 September 2020. She is also the
Chief Executive A chief executive officer (CEO), also known as a central executive officer (CEO), chief administrator officer (CAO) or just chief executive (CE), is one of a number of corporate executives charged with the management of an organization especially ...
of the department as an
executive agency An executive agency is a part of a government department that is treated as managerially and budgetarily separate, to carry out some part of the executive functions of the United Kingdom government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government or No ...


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 Lancashire ( , ; abbreviated Lancs) is the name of a historic county, ceremonial county, and non-metropolitan county in North West England. The boundaries of these three areas differ significantly. The non-metropolitan county of Lancashi ...
Manchester Manchester () is a city in Greater Manchester, England. It had a population of 552,000 in 2021. It is bordered by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and the neighbouring city of Salford to the west. The tw ...
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, 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''). 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. The following were King's or Queen's Proctor after 1660: * 1660–1669: Alexander Cheeke *1669–1700: Samuel Franklyn *1700–1710: Thomas Smith *1710–1714: George Smith *1714–1727: Henry Farrant *1727–1750: Edward Greenly *1750–1766: Thomas Tindal *1766–1783: Philip Champion de Crespigny *1783–1804: James Heseltine"HM Procurator General: Report Books, Series I"
''The National Archives''. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
*1804–1815: Charles Bishop
The London Gazette
', 28 November 1815 (issue 17085), p. 2377.
*1815–1844: Iltid Nicholl
The London Gazette
', 28 January 1845 (issue 20436), p. 247.
*1845–1876: Francis Hart Dyke
The London Gazette
', 4 August 1876 (issue 24351), p. 4374.

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 The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace lies on the north b ...
; 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."Solicitors and Assistant-Solicitors, 1660–1870"
in J. C. Sainty, ''Office-Holders in Modern Britain'', vol. 1 (University of London, 1972), pp. 97–98.
The following were Treasury Solicitors after 1660.

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

* By 1661: John Rushworth * By 1673: Sir William Turner * 1676–1679: John Ramsey * 1679–1685: Thomas Lloyd * 1685–1689: Philip Burton * 1689–1696: Aaron Smith * 1696–1716: Henry Baker * 1716–1728: Philip Horneck * 1728–1729: Edward Roome * 1729–1737: Charles Valence Jones * 1737–1744: Charlton Hayward * 1744–1800: Hugh Valence Jones

Treasury Solicitor (II; from 1696)

* 1696–1700: Nicholas Baker * 1700–1715: William Borrett * 1715–1730: Anthony Cracherode * 1730–1742: Nicholas Paxton * 1742–1756: John Sharpe * 1756–1765: Philip Carteret Webb * 1765–1775: Thomas Nuthall * 1775–1794: William Chamberlayne * 1794–1806: Joseph White * 1806–1818: Henry Charles Litchfield * 1818–1851: George Maule * 1851–1866: Henry Revell Reynolds * 1866–1871: John Greenwood * 1871–1875: John Gray * 1875–1894: Augustus Keppel StephensonWendie Ellen Schneider, ''Engines of Truth: Producing Veracity in the Victorian Courtroom'' (Yale University Press, 2015), pp. 157–158.

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. By 1971, the office came with a salary of £14,000 a year. The following have been jointly HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor: *1876–1894: Sir Augustus Keppel Stephenson, KCB
London Gazette
', 26 October 1894 (issue 26564), p. 6005.
*1894–1909: Hamilton Cuffe, 5th Earl of Desart, KP, KCB, PC *1909–1923: Sir John Paget Mellor, 1st Baronet, KCB * 1923–1926: Hon. Alfred Clive Lawrence, CBE * 1926–1933: Sir Maurice Linford Gwyer, GCB, KCB, KCSI, QC * 1934–1953: Sir Thomas James Barnes, GCB, Kt, CBE * 1953–1964: Sir Harold Simcox Kent, GCB, QC * 1964–1971: Sir William Arthur Harvey Druitt, KCB * 1971–1975: Sir Henry Gabriel Ware, KCB * 1975–1980: Sir Basil Brodribb Hall, KCB, MC, TD * 1980–1984: Sir Michael James Kerry, KCB, QC * 1984–1988: Sir John Bilsland Bailey, KCB * 1988–1992: Sir James Nursaw, KCB, QC * 1992–1995: Sir Gerald Albery Hosker, KCB, QC * 1995–1996: Michael Lawrence Saunders, CB * 1997–2000: Sir Anthony Hilgrove Hammond, KCB QC (Hon) * 2000–2006: Dame Juliet Louise Wheldon, DCB QC * 2006–2014: Sir Paul Christopher Jenkins, KCB, QC (Hon) * 2014–2020: Sir Jonathan Guy Jones, KCB, QC (Hon) * 2021–present: Susanna McGibbon

See also

Departments of the United Kingdom Government The Government of the United Kingdom is divided up into departments. These, according to the government, are responsible for putting government policy into practice. There are currently 23 ministerial departments, 20 non-ministerial departments ...


External links

Government Legal Department

Bona Vacantia
{{Departments of the United Kingdom Government, type=Non-ministerial, title=Government Legal Department Law of the United Kingdom Executive agencies of the United Kingdom government 1876 establishments in the United Kingdom Organizations established in 1876