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The Home Office is the United Kingdom government department responsible for immigration control, security and order. As such it is responsible for the police, United Kingdom Borders Agency and MI5marker. It is also in charge of government policy on security-related issues such as drugs, counter-terrorism and ID cards. It was formerly responsible for the Prison Service and Probation Service, but these are now under a newly created Ministry of Justice.

It continues to be known, especially in official papers and when referred to in Parliament, by its former title, the Home Department.


The Home Office is currently undergoing a major reform programme, following well-publicised issues in early 2006. This is the current organisation of the Home Office, but is likely to change. It is also immensely complex as there are many sub-groups within the Home Office, such as the UK Border Agency, who look after inward migration and asylum applications to the United Kingdom. The Home Office is also responsible for the Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence Directorate and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, which manage the UK's response to terrorist incidents through the emergency and security services, and develops legislation relating to terrorism.

On 28 March 2007 it was announced that the Department for Constitutional Affairs would take control of probation, prisons and prevention of re-offending in England and Wales from the Home Office and be renamed the Ministry of Justice. This took effect on 9 May 2007.

Objectives of the Home Office

The Home Office has the following stated objectives:

  • To reduce crime
  • To ensure people feel safer in their homes and daily lives, particularly through more visible, responsive and accountable policing
  • To protect the UK from terrorist attacks
  • To re-balance the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority and victims
  • To manage offenders in order to protect the public and reduce re-offending
  • To secure the borders of the United Kingdom, prevent abuse of immigration laws and manage migration to the benefit of the UK.


(as of 8 June 2009)

Shadow Secretaries

The Conservative Party's Shadow Secretary of State is Chris Grayling MP. The Liberal Democrat spokesman is Chris Huhne MP.


On 27 March 1782, the Home Office was formed by renaming the existing Southern Department, with all existing staff transferring. On the same day, the Northern Department was renamed the Foreign Officemarker.

To match the new names, there was a transferring of responsibilities between the two Departments of State. All domestic responsibilities were moved to the Home Office, and all foreign matters became the concern of the Foreign Office.

Most subsequently created domestic departments (excluding, for instance, those dealing with education) have been formed by splitting responsibilities away from the Home Office.

The initial responsibilities were:
  • answering petitions and addresses sent to the King
  • advising the King on
  • issuing instructions on behalf of the King to officers of the Crown, Lords Lieutenant and magistrates, mainly concerning law and order
  • operation of the secret service within the UK
  • protecting the public
  • safeguarding the rights and liberties of individuals

Responsibilities were subsequently changed over the years that followed:

The Home Office retains a variety of functions that have not found a home elsewhere, and sit oddly with the main law-and-order focus of the department, such as regulation of British Summer Time.

Permanent Under Secretaries of State of the Home Office

Departmental agencies


From 1978 to 2004, the Home Office was located in a Brutalist block in Queen Anne's Gate in Westminstermarker designed by Sir Basil Spence, close to St. James's Park tube stationmarker. Many functions, however, were devolved to offices in other parts of London and the country, notably the headquarters of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in Croydonmarker.

In Spring 2005, the Home Office moved to a new main office designed by Sir Terry Farrell at 2 Marsham Streetmarker, Westminster, SW1P 4DF, on the site of the demolished Marsham Towersmarker building of the Department of the Environment. The contract to build the new headquarters was a public-private partnership deal intended to last for around 29 years.


To meet the UK's 5-year science and technology strategy, the Home Office sponsors research in police sciences including:
  • Raman Spectroscopy – to provide more sensitive drugs and explosives detectors (e.g. roadside drug detection)
  • Biometrics – including face and voice recognition
  • DNA – identifying offender characteristics from DNA
  • Terahertz imaging methods and technologies – e.g. image analysis and new cameras, to detect crime, enhance images and support anti-terrorism
  • Chemistry – new techniques to recover latent fingerprints
  • Cell type analysis – to determine the origin of cells (e.g. hair, skin)
  • Improved Profiling – of illicit drugs to help identify their source

See also


External links

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