Sir George Moseley: Highly valued civil servant

 

There is a point in the lives of politicians when you form close relationships, and often friendships, with particular civil servants. Then, overnight, with ministerial change or defeat of a government, the relationship evaporates. From October 1964 until he was promoted to assistant secretary in autumn 1965, I saw George Moseley working at close quarters. Moseley was the Principal Private Secretary to the cabinet minister Richard Crossman. I was Crossman's Parliamentary Private Secretary.

As an efficient allocator of departmental business as it pertained to his minister, Moseley was sans pareil. And he had a rare ability to convey to his seniors in acceptable terms where they were being unwise; this was quite a feat when those seniors were the formidable Crossman, Jimmy Jones, James Waddell, Ronald Brain and above all his own boss, the looming Beatrice Webb-like figure of Dame Evelyn Sharp, the Permanent Secretary.

Moseley's political orientation was never revealed, but there was little doubt that he could handle major, ferociously clever politicians. Crossman would yearn later, as Lord President of the Council, Leader of the House and Secretary of State for Health and Pensions, "Oh, that if only George Moseley could come back to me."

I was an astonished fly on the wall in October 1964 when Crossman turned to Moseley and said that he must teach him how to handle all the correspondence that came to the department. The great diarist records, "He sat opposite me with his owlish eyes and said to me, 'Well, minister, you see there are three ways of handling it. A letter can either be answered by you personally, in your own handwriting; or we can draft a personal reply for you to sign; or, if the letter is not worth your answering personally we can draft an official answer."

"What's an official answer?" I asked. "Well, it says the minister has received your letter, and then the department replies. We'll draft all three variants. And if you just tell us which you want..." "How do I do that?" I asked. "Well, you can put all your in-tray into your out-tray," he said, "and if you put it in without a mark on it then we will deal with it and you need never see it again."

George Moseley, the son of William Moseley MBE, told me that he owed his career to his education at the High School of Glasgow, where the Rector, Dr Lees, insisted on the rigorous academic standards. He joined the RAF in 1943 and was posted as a pilot officer to Iraq. Half a century later, he told colleagues he thought Tony Blair was reckless in going along with the Americans to war. "I know that country," he said. "It will be easier to get in than get out."

He gained entrance to Wadham College, Oxford in October 1947, and it was the charismatic warden of Wadham, Sir Maurice Bowra, who advised him to enter the civil service. From 1965, until he became Permanent Secretary in 1981 at the Department of the Environment, he ascended through the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Sir Geoffrey Chipperfield, Principal Private Secretary to the Minister of Housing and a Permanent Secretary from 1991-93, told me, "George was a fine permanent secretary. His handling of different personalities was superb. He was particularly kind and thoughtful towards junior colleagues in difficulty." I saw this in his treatment of the young assistant Private Secretary Brian Ponsford, who was eventually to commit suicide. Moseley went to inordinate lengths to help him.

Chipperfield, who also followed Moseley as head of the British Cement Association, reflected, "George as chairman did most of the heavy lifting in relation to difficult management issues. He left me with an apparatus in excellent order and with first-class relations with the great cement companies."

In retirement, in 1986, Moseley became a much-valued member of the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee and the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. For 10 years he was chairman of the Trustees of the Civic Trust. He was a man who just got on with such tasks as he deemed worthwhile with no interest in kudos or personal publicity.

 

 

George Walker Moseley, civil servant: born Glasgow 7 February 1925; RAF Pilot Officer 1943-48; PPS to Housing Ministers Sir Keith Joseph 1963-1964, RHS Crossman 1964-1965; Permanent Secretary, Department of Environment 1981-85; Chairman of Trustees, Civic Trust 1990-2000; Chairman, British Cement Association 1990-2000; CB 1978, KCB 1982; married 1950 Anne Mercer (died 1989; one son, one daughter), 1990 Madge James; died Saffron Walden 28 September 2011.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines