Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1045 - 1059)




  1045. On behalf of the Committee, can I welcome our witnesses. I am sorry we are at the moment a little bit depleted, but we hope to be reinforced before too long. It is very kind of you to come along and help us with our inquiry into Making Government Work. Sir Robin Mountfield is a former Permanent Secretary, and Sir Christopher Foster is a seasoned traveller around the worlds both of Government and of business, who has I think been a special adviser to Governments of both persuasions?

  (Sir Christopher Foster) I have been a political adviser to Labour Governments, in the past, and a non-political one to Tory Governments; both special.

  1046. There we are; so, between you, a reservoir of experience and expertise upon which we would like to draw. Now I think that, Sir Christopher, you would like to say something before we start?
  (Sir Christopher Foster) If I may.

  1047. If you would, please?
  (Sir Christopher Foster) I am very grateful to the Committee for giving me the chance of an opening statement, just to say something about what seemed to me, having studied the transcripts of quite a large number of your sessions, to be six key aspects of the issues you are studying. Most particularly, I gather that you would rather hear from us about civil service reform than machinery of government. Though I speak for myself and from my own experience, I also was the Chairman of the Steering Group of the Smith Report into civil service reform, which came out at the same time as "Modernising British Government". I had the honour to lead a very distinguished group, with two ex-Cabinet ministers, in Shirley Williams and Roger Freeman, Lord Haskins, Chairman of the Regulatory Impact Task Force, two ex-Permanent Secretaries, James Cornford, who was David Clark's special adviser, among others and two eminent professors. A number of my points are very much as much theirs as they are mine. My first point is to agree that we need more openness in the Civil Service, if it is to remain a lively and become a more effective body. I think that is absolutely essential. My second point is to agree with Lord Simon that to get it, we need more flexibility in pay and conditions than we now have, not only to recruit new people but also to retain those being groomed for the highest responsibilities. Once, social prestige, being close to ministers and the many intellectual fascinations of the job compensated for lower pay, but those compensations, for various reasons, have waned greatly in recent years. Moreover, there has been such an explosion of comparable top people's pay in the private sector that one must start to pay real market rates, at least for the most demanding public sector jobs. One may regret this necessity, but the cost of neglecting it, I think, will be tremendously adverse on the morale of the Civil Service and the effectiveness of the machine. Third, despite the need for greater openness and what that implies, Government cannot, and should not, be run as if all that was needed were private sector competencies. Among the nine key differences between the public and private sectors that the Smith Report identified, let me remind you of the more important. They were that civil servants operate in an environment much more constrained by law and regulation, are directly or indirectly accountable to Parliament, have much more complex objectives than the profit motive, and have to operate with ministers of widely different experience, interests and aptitudes. Fourth, one consequence of these differences is that we recommended, and I strongly believe it myself, that we need a Civil Service which is largely permanent. It is impossible to put an exact figure, but perhaps from about 80 to 90 per cent should be permanent, that is, should spend all, or most, of their lives in the service or on planned secondments from it. We need that permanence, I believe, for the robust maintenance of such Civil Service values as political impartiality, continuity between administrations, fairness in dealing with the public, as well as such demanding requirements as to be non-discriminatory between employees and members of the public, and, as important as any, to retain high standards of truth-telling to Parliament and to the public, indeed. But also there is another very important argument for permanence: there are, as I found from my own experience, considerable risks, if you bring in too many people from outside into any organisation. You know them much less well. In my judgement, in one out of three cases, you probably later wish you had not done so. It is very important, for morale-building and for quality of life in the Civil Service, that there remains a tradition of a career for life for both these reasons. Five, an important further aspect is the strong desirability of maintaining tenure as the norm, both as a protection against overpoliticisation and as a vital protection against corruption. We have, rare in the world these days, a Government—ministers, civil servants—which is not corrupt. Virtually all evidence on the subject suggests that the way to keep a Civil Service as good as ours is, and as incorruptible as ours is, is first through paying decent salaries, but also providing tenure, for the avoidance of pressures that can arise from poor pay and insecure jobs. My last point. In my opinion, there are reforms needed, very profound and fundamental ones, to bring the Civil Service into the 21st century. Among the most important concern aspects of training. The Smith Report argued, and I agree, that the old category of generalist needs sub-division into its own kinds of specialisation. Government is becoming so much more complicated, in particular ways, so that specialised kinds of generalists, are becoming very much more needed. The first and most obvious is finance. Even more now we have resource accounting, we need a cadre of people trained to have a much stronger financial background than is normal among civil servants who are in finance posts. The second arises from the huge growth of legal constraints on government and therefore the need to get to the bottom of many complicated legal problems. In my judgement, again, it has created a need for specialists who are good at handling lawyers, which requires particular skills. Handling lawyers, trying to secure that Bills are in good shape when they get into Parliament, dealing with legal opinions, handling them as clients when representing the private sector on a large scale means that you need to develop specialists of this kind. With the huge growth of lawyers advising Government, you need specialised generalists, as a bridge, to help ministers handle legal issues. The third is that we also need officials who are trained in understanding science, in relating different sciences to each other and assessing probabilities; we have had BSE, we have now foot and mouth, there are many such problems, and they are not going to get any fewer. They raise difficult scientific and technical issues, which require people with a specialised expertise in risk assessment. Fourth, on implementation, the Civil Service has always been very good at what it understood to mean by policy implementation, which was turning policy into prose: into White Papers and into Bills. But the further skill, the importance of which I think is not fully recognised and it is one of the worries behind the Government's concern about the public sector's effectiveness, is that one needs to be able to turn that paper into mechanisms, machinery, organisation, that actually works. The trick here, which I am happy to develop, if anybody wants me to, is to recognise that, in a sense, what one should be trying to do and design is some kind of contractual or quasi-contractual base, by means of which various ongoing activities run in an altered way, as well as new activities in a new and well-designed way. As such it is a form of procurement. The Civil Service, like the private sector, for that matter, has, in my judgement, a huge need for more trained procurement specialists, in effect, who have these skills. They are very distinct and buyable skills, but because scarce it also needs to train its own so as to help turn policy into definite programmes, agreements, things which can be seen to work, which can be monitored and whose effectiveness can be judged. Forgive me for that statement.

  1048. Thank you very much indeed, that is very, very helpful. I wonder if I could ask Sir Robin, would you like just to be our first respondent?
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) First of all, I would just like to comment that it is two years since I left the Civil Service, after 38 years, and the caravan moves on surprisingly fast, so some of my perceptions may be rooted a little bit in past experience.

  1049. We asked you because you are a free man!
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) Relatively free; the contract cannot be broken, even in retrospect. I agree with much of what Chris says. I agree particularly about the need to acquire additional skills. I also agree with the need to open up the Civil Service, by which I assume he means not the open government thing, which is a whole different debate.
  (Sir Christopher Foster) No.
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) But the question of recruiting additional skills, and particularly experience, from outside. I think that is an extremely difficult area, and it seems to me that the correct balance between a permanent, career-based, non-political service and the acquisition of additional skills from outside is a thing that needs to be judged very carefully indeed. If one carries it too far one will move, as I think some politicians of both parties, in office and out, have favoured, to a model which is purportedly stolen from the private sector, where a "hire and fire" existence takes place, where people are recruited by open competition, on fixed-term contracts, and so on, which, of course, never really exists in a major way in the private sector. You may recall the Oughton Report, of about 1994, or thereabouts; in my view, an extremely mature and important assessment of this question of opening up the Civil Service. Oughton effectively debunked the concept that the private sector used fixed-term contracts and open competition in a major way. He said that large, stable organisations, typically, the phrase he used was, "grow their own timber", and then, with an inelegant mixture of metaphor, he said, "but it needs to be ventilated;" and that is, in my view, absolutely right, that the balance between those two elements is crucially important. And I personally think we have gone a little too far, in the Civil Service, in recruiting from outside for particular posts, very often on a fixed-term contract, and I would very much rather see regular infusion of new experience, right through the career profile, in other words, in mid-career as well as at the beginning and the end. Because I think the acquisition of the culture and the skills of the Civil Service and the proper melding of that with outside experience is more effectively done before you reach the top posts, where you need very detailed knowledge of the way the parliamentary machine works, the Civil Service machine works, and all the cultural continuities, and so on, that are involved. Now I hope that is not interpreted as meaning that I think the Civil Service should remain closed. I think we went through a dark period in the sixties and seventies, after a very open period during and after the second world war, when a lot of additional talent came into the Service, and I think it closed down on itself; and I think we are now, rightly and belatedly, in the process of reopening our doors, not only in terms of people but in terms of ideas and influences. And I think that balance is the crucially important thing for modernising the service.

  1050. Do you broadly accept Sir Christopher's line, which is that 80 to 90 per cent permanence; would that be the sort of benchmark that we are talking about?
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) I do not think I would be able to put a particular figure on it, because I think it may vary from place to place and time to time. I think there are some areas where the Civil Service is seriously short of important skills, IT skills are very obvious, finance skills are also very obvious, where it may be necessary to recruit on a shorter-term basis. I do not altogether agree with what Chris says about generalists; generalism is a professionalism of its own, and, particularly if we are seeking to develop the concept of joined-up government, actually you need in your teams a number of people who have moved around between a lot of different specialisms. Because the ability to weigh and balance a lot of expertise is itself a specialism that the Civil Service has traditionally been strong in, and I do not think we ought to lose that skill, but you need to balance teams with a lot of different skills, of which that is one.

  1051. You seem to be saying though that the tendency to advertise, for example, permanent secretary appointments, is something which is not to be favoured; is that right?
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) I do not want to comment in a particularly categorical way. I think there is a danger in that becoming the absolute requirement. Apart from anything else, I think there is a bit of kidology involved, that gives the impression that all these posts are going to be, in fact, open to outsiders, because the number of people who have actually been recruited to non-specialist permanent secretaryships straight from outside is very small. I would much rather see a larger number of people reaching permanent secretary rank with a substantial private sector or voluntary sector experience but having had a number of years at a lower level in the Service and worked their way up, and I think that is a much more fruitful way of opening up. The question of competition is a thing that applies, of course, not only to outside appointments but it is becoming absolutely the norm for acquisition of jobs within the Service. The culture of job advertising is actually very popular with staff, at least with the successful staff. But I think that itself has become a quite serious problem, which people throughout the Service are beginning to worry about, that we seem to have jumped from an old concept of career development, where you deliberately place people, over a period, in a series of jobs that will develop their suitability for the highest office, to one where, each time, you look at who is the best person for a particular job, without reference, necessarily, to the team in which they are going to be interpolated, whether the mix of skills in a team is right, whether this is the right post to develop somebody. And I think that balance between career development and job advertising has not been got right, and we need to reassert the significance of career development, particularly for the future leaders of the Service.
  (Sir Christopher Foster) Can I just comment quickly on two of those things. I said 80 to 90 per cent permanent; an arbitrary number, but by which I mean a large proportion. The exception you gave, Robin, I would not actually agree with. I think the reason we have short-term IT people and in part why we have had so many IT disasters, is that we do not pay IT specialists enough to come in and give long, loyal service. I do believe, here, as much as anywhere else, one benefits from having some people coming in and out but also from having a substantial number of long-stay people. I know of no successful private firm, at least in my judgement, that does not feel it needs a very substantial cadre of people who are long-term and loyal; moreover, I do not know any that does not believe that career development of the cadre is important. You try to train your own people because you know them, you know their strengths and their weaknesses. You go outside when you have not got the right person inside. You go out with some trepidation, because you know the risk of getting someone who appears good but isn't, particularly in this era of very poor references, that past employers tend to give. It is all very problematic. So, of course, you go outside, but you go outside, primarily, in my judgement, because you are sure you have not got the right person inside, or because there is a job with some definite need for an outsider.

  1052. How far have we moved on? If you go back to Fulton, 30-odd years ago, was not that just saying the same things, that is, we need more specialisms, the old generalist model does not quite work, we need more interchange, and all that? Here we are, 30-odd years on, still saying the same kinds of things, without having made an awful lot of progress. Does that not suggest that the Civil Service is remarkably impenetrable to reform?
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) I would not agree that we have not made any progress. I would like to speak separately about policy work and management work, of course they intertwine, they are not completely separate, but they are the two ends of a spectrum. I think, myself, that in the policy area we have not advanced as far as we should in the last 30 years. I do not think skills have deteriorated but I think the world has changed around us and I do not think we have adjusted as well as we should have done to that. The world where the Civil Service was the monopoly provider of advice to ministers has gone. We live in a much more multiple world where ministers, quite properly, look for ideas and advice from think tanks, from universities, from pressure groups and from their own party machines to a much greater extent than they did 30 years, 40 years ago; and that is entirely good. And, I think, if there is a monopoly function left with the Civil Service, in policy work, it is as a professional policy synthesiser, and I do not think we devoted enough effort to that until fairly recently. I think the creation of the Centre for Management and Policy Studies is an indication of the seriousness with which that is now taken, and absolutely right. It is high time we devoted much more effort to the training of senior officials and those who are going to become senior officials in policy analysis and all the related things, encouraging them to open themselves to ideas that were not invented here; that has been one of the traditional weaknesses. In the management area, on the other hand, I think we have made far more progress than we have actually been given credit for. I think there are signs that Fulton did not lead to a managerial revolution, and it was not until the early eighties that that began, with the FMI, and subsequently delegation and Next Steps, and so on. But, I think, if you look at the experience of the big employing battalions of the Civil Service, the productivity improvements, for example, have been vast. Between '92 and '98, or '99, in my judgement, and it is very difficult to get really satisfactory statistical evidence, because there is not a single measure of output, but if you accumulate evidence from the big battalions and look at the aggregates of Civil Service employment, the signs are that productivity has improved, after allowing for privatisation and outsourcing, by about 3 per cent per annum, cumulative, over seven or eight years. Now, if that is true, and I am pretty confident it is about the right order, that is significantly more than the growth of productivity in the private service sector. So this is by no means a negligible performance. And it has been associated with significant improvements in the quality of service and, as anyone who reads the annual Next Steps report can see, measurable improvements in the quality of service. Now I think we have got an important next step to move on to the current joined-up government agenda, which we can discuss perhaps later on, but that is a significant achievement and I think we need to pay recognition to that.
  (Sir Christopher Foster) I see it slightly differently from Robin. I acknowledge absolutely the huge strides in the improvement of management that have taken place, I do not know whether we are going to talk about that, but I think there are many more that still need to be taken, for example, the whole way of turning PSAs from acts of faith into real management documents, real business plans. A lot has been achieved, I know, in the last couple of years, but, as far as I can judge, there is still a long way to go, as quickly as possible. We must not be smug about it, in any way whatsoever. On the other matter, Fulton, I think one has heard quite a lot about Fulton's recommendations, but that is history: it was still related to a largely paper-producing culture; it did not really understand management issues. The distinction it made between the generalist and the financial/economic administrator was a pale reflection of what I think is needed these days: for example, I do believe that the time has come to have a very much more developed finance officer cadre, with a whole new raft of skills than Fulton had in mind. Moreover, procurement is actually a large part of what the Civil Service is about these days. It is about drawing blueprints, tying down business plans, with local government, with departments and agencies, with joined-up mixtures of agencies. These skills are of an enormous intricacy and complexity, which Fulton never dreamed of. In those days, lawyers were not very important to government; of course, government had its lawyers and very often they were very able people, but ministers had far more freedom to decide the content of Bills and Regulations, were far less challenged than they are now. I am not saying that we do not need generalists and specialised professionals as well, but, in my judgement, in between there is a layer of people who need to be specialist generalists, because I do not believe that the old-fashioned generalist can easily comprehend all that is required really to cover all these very different expertises . . . take science, for example, this is going to be of the most enormous importance, it is already important to assess the evidence coming in from all kinds of scientific and advisory committees. It requires more people who can look across different sciences, who are not completely cocooned in one particular scientific or technological area. It requires people with a very considerable grasp of probability theory and risk assessment to protect ministers; that is an area which, in my judgement, needs a lot of development. And, in one sense, you may say nothing has advanced from Fulton, I think that untrue, for the reasons that Robin gave. Rather, I think our understanding of the detail of what is needed to modernise the Civil Service is racing ahead all the time.

  1053. Thank you for that. Before I hand over to a colleague, can I ask just one further question, which gets into different territory, which is the joined-up area. Now I gather, Sir Robin, that you claim authorship of this phrase, which is—
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) Not uniquely, I think others probably claim it as well.

  1054. Well, it would be quite a claim, and a responsibility.
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) If I had a pound for every time it has been used in ministerial speeches, my exiguous civil service pension would be supplemented very comfortably.

  Chairman: Indeed, well, we are going to contribute to this fund now.

Mr Tyrie

  1055. We have asked for more pay.
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) It won't apply to pensions, I fear.


  1056. Here, clearly, is, at least in language, a development that we need to explore. Now, as the putative author of this, could you then actually tell us what it is; could you tell us also what was unjoined-up before, and then, in essence, what we are joining up now, and how we should do it?
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) I may claim authorship of the phrase, but I certainly do not of the idea, which has clearly been around, in one form or another, for a very long time. But I do think it is a distinctively new emphasis in the last few years, not uniquely under this Government, I think it was happening to some extent towards the end of the previous administration. And I think the way I view it is, there were huge advances in the quality of management, not of policy but of management, as a result of delegation, vertical delegation down clear hierarchical lines, with specific objectives and a degree of management freedom that was undreamed of 20 or 30 years ago within individual units; and that has all been benign. What, however, I think it has done is expose more than before the problem of the horizontal linkages across government, and the joined-up concept. To my mind, again, this is a spectrum rather than a black and white thing—one could look at the policy area and the service delivery area, and there is a big area in-between of implementation of policy. In the joined-up policy area, I think, the progressive introduction of things like the Performance and Innovation Unit, the Social Exclusion Unit and other bodies in other sectors, organised a bit differently, these are all concentrated on the idea of trying to get the linkages between policies more sensibly worked out. Departments have always worked in little pockets; the tendency has always been to devise policy within a departmental framework. The process of interdepartmental consultation and cabinet committee discussion is rather like a sort of dispute resolution procedure, aimed at reaching a least common denominator solution, a compromise solution; and the so-called "wicked issues" do not always respond adequately to that. And I think the idea of taking people out of their departmental loyalty, but with their experience, for a period of three or six months, mixing them with specialists from outside the Civil Service, and putting them in a room and telling them to get on and produce a solution, which may be more radical than any other solutions that are put forward by individual departments, getting that accepted by ministers, if it is, and then put down into departments for implementation, with the authority of the Cabinet, that seems to me to be potentially a very promising approach. It is not absolutely revolutionary, but I think the extent to which it is being used is a distinctively new emphasis. Now, equally important, in my view, is the area of service delivery; this is sometimes characterised, and, indeed, may actually be implemented, in physical terms, as a one-stop shop, but that is actually shorthand for a lot of other things. But the idea, for example, a case that struck me was when my late father-in-law was in hospital, recovering from a stroke, not able to face one public service with any competence but actually needing to deal with a whole range of them. There is absolutely no reason why a single public service provider, supported by the right IT equipment, and so on, should not be able to put in place, for example, the ambulance to take the person home, put the pension back in payment, make sure that the `meals on wheels' arrangements are delivered, the care packages with the local authority and the voluntary agencies, and so on, all those things are perfectly capable of being packaged. You register a death at a registry office, there is no reason at all why the social security implications and all the other bits of communication of government should not be done through that single channel. Now the image of wide use of web-based services, I think, is probably a bit far-fetched for many people, for the foreseeable future. But with IT in the hands of the provider, through a call centre, through a post office, whatever it is, this joined-up concept is a really powerful idea, and, interestingly, works with the grain of the public service ethic, whereas Next Steps and delegation, to some extent, work against the grain; and I think that is an immensely powerful, potential development. In-between, there is a whole range of activities; if I could give one example, which is the anti-drugs programme. Quite early on in the present administration, a slug of money was given to the so-called drugs czar to distribute among the various agencies and departments dealing with drugs; he did that in consultation with all the departments, money was then allocated from that horizontal budget to the various ministries and agencies concerned, controlled and monitored with a degree of flexibility, accountable still through the vertical channels but influenced by this horizontal co-ordination. In the last Strategic Spending Review, one saw 16 or 17 areas of government approached in that same way, a range of possible solutions, from merged budgets through to extended collaborative arrangements, some of them at the national level, some of them at a local level, some of them just within central government, some spanning central government, local government, National Health Service. And we are right at the beginning of what is, to my mind, a development at least as significant in its time for the next 10 years as Next Steps and the New Public Management was ten years ago, a hugely exciting and very powerful concept.

  1057. I think that is the most elegant and compelling statement of all this that I have ever heard, actually. Could you go just a little bit further now and tell us, on the basis of that, where do we go next?
  (Sir Robin Mountfield) I do not think there is a single solution. I think, just like Next Steps and the New Public Management, it is a long, long haul. And, I think, if I may say, one of the problems about modern government—and perhaps old-fashioned government too—is the disjunction between the political timescale and the time it actually takes to turn this supertanker round; and the expectation that you can quickly "modernise government" seems to me to be quite a problem. There are many, many levels at which this needs to be addressed. I think it is being addressed in a very interesting and innovative way in the policy formulation level at the top, and I think that is quite promising; it is too soon to reach firm conclusions about whether it is working, but it is a very promising approach. On the ground, I think there are a number of signs that local authorities and the health service and the education services and central government agencies are beginning to collaborate, but there is an enormous amount of scope to increase that, sometimes following the initiative and enterprise of individual managers at the local level, sometimes by national initiatives. There is a danger, of course, of letting too many flowers bloom, and the proliferation of Action Zones, I think, is a very obvious example, where they grew up very quickly, they were not co-ordinated, not joined-up, in fact. Individually they probably made good sense, but some of them did not work effectively with each other, or even with themselves. But I think we may have to accept a certain amount of trial and error in this area. There are huge technical problems along the track; one of them is accountability. You are dealing with agencies, some of them are central government agencies, accountable and auditable through the usual channels, up to Parliament, some of them are quangos, some of them are NHS bodies, with their own accountability complexities, and some of them, of course, are local authorities, or even Welsh or Scottish Governments, which may be of a different complexion, political complexion, at some time in the future. So we have great problems of that kind. And you have different audit agencies, the NAO and the Audit Commission, for example, both of them, incidentally, showing, as I understand it, great willingness to experiment in that area and to find ways through these accountability problems; but it is a long haul, it is technically difficult stuff, and it needs a lot of goodwill and a lot of consensus that this is the right way to go, but I think it is happening.
  (Sir Christopher Foster) I am not going to try to match Robin's eloquence. His was an absolutely marvellous statement. I agree with him that it is a very important development and is moving ahead, in most respects, extremely well. I think we are beginning to reach some understanding of what joining up is easy and what is less easy. You made a point that joined-up policy, though not always easy, is easier than joint delivery. When you come to information systems, it ought to be relatively easy to join them up, it requires very good specification by ministers of what they want and then not changing their mind (which is all too tempting). Thereafter very good IT design and delivery. With ongoing services it becomes more difficult; it is difficult enough within the health service getting the doctors, nurses and other staff to co-operate. When they belong to different agencies, ongoing joined-up collaboration is not easy. One sometimes has to recognise that you cannot get the improvements in productivity, either in terms of quality of work, or in terms of reduced effort, that you can in a more vertical environment. So, of course, we have got to do a lot more joining up, but do not do it unnecessarily. Where one can locate an activity within the boundaries of a department or an agency, then try to do so. Where the benefit from joining up is marginal then do not do it. If you try to do too much joining up, I think you will make it much more difficult, particularly for ministers to carry through and concentrate on the things where being joined up really matters most.

  Chairman: Thank you for that.

Mr Tyrie

  1058. I am fascinated by what I have heard, and I would really just like to ask some questions, first of all, of clarification, particularly with respect to the issue of how much interchange there could be between the Civil Service and other walks of life, and the extent to which we need a permanent, career-based cadre of people. First of all, Sir Christopher, you said that we must keep a core cadre and that it is absolutely essential to do so, but you also said that the private sector are well aware of this and they do so; so, therefore, why cannot private sector practice be used to maintain a public sector core?
  (Sir Christopher Foster) I think it could be, but it is not. I think too great a requirement to advertise posts, to be absolutely honest, has made better career development a little too difficult. One needs to have a better balance between those one can develop and promise from within and those posts one really needs to advertise from without. Moreover I think openness and planned secondment are two different things. I am a great believer in planned secondment, in and out of local government and agencies. Virtually every civil servant would benefit from something of that kind, once, certainly, possibly twice or three times during their career, but, there again, it is absolutely vital you pick the right person to come in from local government, as well as the right job for the person at the centre who goes out. It really ought to be part of their career development, not the rather chancy business of answering an advertisement. Quite different from secondment is when you find that you have not got a good enough person within the system for a post. Then, most certainly, you should go outside to fill it. Where you want someone who is innovative or has a particular outside skill then you should go for it. But to do so should be a result of a sort of strategic judgement, departmentally or by agency, about the skills you cannot get except through advertisement, rather than a drill you go through all the time.

  1059. What proportion of the core should be permanent, career civil service?
  (Sir Christopher Foster) I said 80 to 90, to indicate I believe it should be a high proportion. I do think, in the private sector, you might get as low as 60 per cent. There is no exact figure which is best; it varies from place to place. I think it needs to be high, both for career development and because the public sector is not like the private sector. There are particular values, there are relationships with politicians, and other differences. If you have too few people who are permanent you will find, as is happening in America at the higher reaches, that a lot of those important standards begin to fray.

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