Sir Charles Cunningham, senior civil servant; born May 7, 1906, died July 7, 1998

Sir Charles Cunningham, who has died at the age of 92, was perhaps the ultimate Man from the Ministry. He worked in the Home Office and the Scottish Office, bringing a precision and an attention to detail which made him almost a role model for others.

A native of Dundee, he was educated at Harris Academy, where he was Dux Medallist in 1924, and St Andrews University, where he graduated with first class honours.

He entered the Scottish Office in 1929 and, before the war, gained wide experience of administration, as private secretary first to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Mr A N Skelton, and then as private secretary to successive secretaries of state from 1935-39.

He worked with Sir Godfrey Collins, Mr Walter Elliot, and

Lt Col John Colville before, in 1939, being appointed Assistant Secretary in the then

newly-constituted Scottish Home Department.

He served as Chief Liaison Officer in London until his appointment as Principal Assistant Secretary of the department in Edinburgh in 1941. Moving up through the ranks, a year later he was made Deputy Secretary, and he was the senior civil servant in the department from 1948 until 1957.

He then became Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (1957-66) during which time he encountered

the likes of R A Butler and

Roy Jenkins, now Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, with whom he

is said to have had a colourful relationship.

He went on to become chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (1966-71), chairman of the Uganda Resettlement Board (1972-73), and was a director of Securicor Ltd from 1971-81.

He once listed four qualities he thought were required by a good local government official, and he may be said to have made them his own in the wider sphere of central government.

They were: a sense of curiosity about the background of public affairs; the ability to criticise oneself; tolerance and understanding of humanity; and a sense of humour and proportion.

Meticulous as he was, those close to him remember a man who, while he did not suffer fools gladly, was prepared to listen to reasoned argument and had a wry, waspish sense of humour. He was, in his own way, quite humble.

He was made a KCB in 1961 and was awarded the GCB (Knight Grand Cross) in the New Year Honours in 1974. He married, in 1934, Edith Louisa Webster, but she died in 1990. He is survived by two daughters.