Obituary: Sir Leslie Williams

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John Leslie Williams, civil servant and trade-unionist: born Wrexham 1 August 1913; civil servant 1931-46; Assistant Secretary, Society of Civil Servants 1947-49, Deputy General Secretary 1949-56, General Secretary 1956-66; Secretary General, Civil Service National Whitley Council (Staff Side) 1966-73; CBE 1970; Deputy Chairman, Civil Service Appeal Board 1973-77, Chairman 1977-78; Kt 1974; married 1937 Florrie Read Jones (died 1992; one son); died Norwich 18 October 1993.

LESLIE WILLIAMS was one of the highly distinguished band of Civil Service trade-union leaders who raised industrial relations in the service to a post-war peak of achievement. A lifelong adherent of 'Whitleyism', the home-grown form of management-staff relations that has given the Civil Service an enviable record of jointly engineered success, Williams was one of the leading figures in the Civil Service during the immediate post-war years, and beyond. Together with his close friend and colleague Sir Richard Hayward, he saw through the agreements which followed the Priestley Royal Commission's Report in 1955. These agreements stabilised Civil Service pay negotiations for over a quarter of a century.

After first working for the Post Office, Williams joined the Inland Revenue in 1931, where he took an active part in union matters. His union, the Inland Revenue Staff Federation, was led by the dynamic Douglas Houghton (now Lord Houghton of Sowerby). Williams saw Houghton as a model, and the latter, in turn, recognised Williams's abilities. During the Second World War, Williams ran union affairs from the Revenue's evacuated headquarters in Llandudno. In 1947, he became a full-time officer as an Assistant Secretary of the Society of Civil Servants, representing executive and managerial grades. In 1949, he became the society's first Deputy General Secretary, and then, in 1956, General Secretary - just in time for the crucial post-Priestley negotiations.

In 1966, Williams succeeded Richard Hayward as Secretary General of the National Staff Side: the leading post amongst the Civil Service trade unions. As both Post Office and Telecommunications staff were then civil servants, he was the spokesman and chief negotiator for around 2 million public servants.

He retired in 1973 after seven years in the centre of a world which suited his ability and temperament superbly. He discharged his role with an intellectual and forensic skill that would have earned him a fortune as a barrister.

In retirement, Williams had a number of official appointments, in particular as Chairman of the Civil Service Appeal Board. He also continued his long association with the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases. The latter years of his retirement were, however, sadly blighted by the long illness of his deeply loved wife, Florrie, whom he nursed devotedly. She predeceased him last year.

Leslie Williams will be remembered fondly by all who knew him. A man of wisdom, conviction and sureness of purpose, he was a powerful influence in what could otherwise have been - and which were subsequently - troubled times for the Civil Service.

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