Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-86)



  Q80  Mr Prentice: I understand that but should people who get to the top of the Civil Service have MBAs, for example?

  Sir Gus O'Donnell: MBAs is an interesting question. I am not a huge fan of MBAs.

  Q81  Mr Prentice: I do not know if you have an MBA.

  Sir Gus O'Donnell: I have not got an MBA although, curiously enough, I have taught on courses for MBAs. I think they should have very strong professional qualifications. I would like my successors who come through to have had more delivery experience than I have had. Precisely what technical qualifications they need, the fact that I have got training in finance and economics is very useful, I find, but some of the MBA modules that I have seen, I have certainly done lots of these training things that are things you would cover in an MBA and I have found them very useful; whether precisely an MBA is the right thing is an interesting question.

  Q82  Mr Prentice: You went all misty-eyed when you were talking to Kelvin earlier about how things were so much better now than in the bad old days in the 1970s. I was looking at this Cabinet Office document from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, November 2006 so it is bang up-to-date—Strategic Priorities for the UK: The Policy Review—and it tells us that the UK remains amongst the most unequal societies in the European Union and that those at the lower end of the income distribution scale remained less likely to move to a higher bracket. When you read this did that shock you?

  Sir Gus O'Donnell: It did not shock me because I knew it; we produced it.

  Q83  Mr Prentice: Someone produced it on your behalf.

  Sir Gus O'Donnell: Our Strategy Unit which is part of the Cabinet Office.

  Q84  Mr Prentice: Okay, so it did not shock you?

  Sir Gus O'Donnell: When I went through the things that have improved dramatically, it is interesting I said things like reduced unemployment and the like, and when you look at people's welfare again the question of happiness was brought up there. One of the things that is very important for happiness is having a job. The other thing is mental illness and the like. One of the statistics that is not in there is that we have in England the lowest suicide rate that we have had on record, so there are reasons to believe that welfare levels have moved up. However, I agree with you there are growing patterns in the world which are likely to create real forces towards increased inequality, that is what one of the negative aspects of globalisation is likely to be, and I think that is one of the key things that government policy will have to address, and I would do it through skills and education primarily.

  Q85  Chairman: Just another misty-eyed question. You were passionate in talking about the Government's policy goals. Could you be as passionate about another Government's policy goals?

  Sir Gus O'Donnell: It depends what they are. In terms of passion I am sure there are things which I expect to see. There is cross-party consensus on climate change and things like trying to improve the service that the Civil Service delivers to customers, and I think those are things that all parties will accept, yes.

  Q86  Chairman: Let us just go back to where we started asking you about the police and whether it was distracting to government and so on and you said rightly, as you would say, that the business of government goes on regardless. It actually cannot be quite like that, can it, with the police in Downing Street and dawn raids on Number 10 staff and Cabinet ministers being interviewed and so on? We know there is an awful lot of disquiet inside Government about the way in which the police are operating and the leaks and so on. Is that a disquiet that you share?

  Sir Gus O'Donnell: I am afraid while this investigation is going on I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment on it.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. Thank you for a very interesting session.

  Sir Gus O'Donnell: You are very welcome, thank you.

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