Truth to power: how Civil Service reform can succeed - Public Administration Committee Contents


Conclusions and recommendations


1.  Ministers have expressed their intention to maintain the politically impartial Civil Service proposed by Northcote and Trevelyan in 1854. We welcome this, as it remains the most effective way of supporting the democratically elected Government and future administrations in the UK, and of maintaining the stability of the UK's largely uncodified constitution. For more than 150 years, this settlement has seen the nation through depression, the general strike, two world wars, the cold war and into the age of globalisation and high technology. Nobody, however, argues that the Civil Service should be immune from change. This Report considers whether the Government's proposed reforms will remain consistent with the Northcote-Trevelyan settlement. (Paragraph 9)

2.  The Haldane doctrine of ministerial accountability is not only crucial to Parliament's ability to hold the executive to account, it is at the core of the relationship between ministers and officials. It is this relationship which has become subject to intense scrutiny and is now being questioned. The tension between ministers and officials reflects that Whitehall is struggling to adapt to the demands of modern politics. Ministers are accountable for all that occurs within their department, but we were told that, for example, they are without the power and the authority to select their own key officials. Ministers are also unable to remove civil servants whom they regard as under-performing or obstructive, despite being held accountable for the performance of their department. The ministers we heard from told us that this is necessary in order to be able to implement their policy programme and to drive change within their departments. In the private sector, executives are given the authority to choose their teams and this is at the core of their accountability to their board and shareholders. It is understandable that ministers wish to be able to choose the officials upon whom they should be able to rely. The doctrine of ministerial accountability is therefore increasingly subject to question and this leads to failure of the doctrine itself. (Paragraph 15)

3.  The failure to be clear about the authority and responsibilities of officials means that officials themselves do not feel accountable or empowered to take full responsibility for their part in delivering ministerial priorities. This underlines the recommendation from our previous Report, Change in Government: The Agenda for Leadership, that a review of the Haldane doctrine would be timely. (Paragraph 16)

4.  Much has changed since the Haldane model of ministerial accountability became established nearly a century ago, not least the size, role and complexity of departments for which ministers are accountable. In recent decades, citizens as consumers have hugely increased their demands and expectations of what Government should be able to deliver. Technology has transformed the way business operates, which has adopted new structures and management practices which would seem unrecognisable to previous generations. Modern business structures have far fewer tiers of management, and delegate far more to empowered, autonomous managers who are accountable for standards and performance, but this has hardly happened at all in the Civil Service, despite the fact that many believe in these principles. At the same time, the demands of 24-7 media, Parliamentary select committees, the Freedom of Information Act, and the demand for open data, openness and transparency now subject the system and the people and their relationships within it to unparalleled scrutiny and exposure. Furthermore, society has changed; we no longer live in an age of deference which tended to respect established institutions and cultures, but in a new 'age of reference', in which anyone can obtain almost unlimited information about almost everything, empowering individuals to challenge people with power and their motives. (Paragraph 17)

5.  Ministers say they want to strengthen ministerial accountability, but a comprehensive reassessment of how the Haldane doctrine can operate in today's world is long overdue. Much of the rhetoric of the present administration was about embracing change of this nature—the word "change" was the watchword of the Prime Minister's approach to his new Government—but this has exposed an increasing dysfunctionality in aspects of the Civil Service key skills: procurement, IT, strategic thinking, and implementation. Ministers tend to blame failures in defence procurement or the Borders Agency on civil servants or previous governments and we believe that Civil Servants may attribute such failures to inexperienced ministers with party political agendas. Either way, few ministers or officials seem to be held accountable when things go wrong. More importantly, there is a risk that an atmosphere of blame overshadows acknowledgement of excellent work. The need to address this may not invalidate the traditional doctrine of ministerial responsibility, but it needs to be redefined and adapted in order to serve good process and effective government in the modern context. (Paragraph 18)

6.  The lesson of the Fulton Committee is not that a formal inquiry into the future of the Civil Service should never be considered, but that the Civil Service's own natural internal resistance to change (common to all large organisations) should not be allowed to limit the remit of such an inquiry in order to allay Civil Service fear of change. Moreover, any proposals for change must include a plan and timetable for implementation, against which Parliament, and others outside the Government, can measure progress. We also observe how often resistance to change need not reflect bad motives amongst civil servants. Confused messages from divided and ineffective leadership will make this resistance difficult to overcome. Civil Servants face disparate messages about their role: ministers outwardly stress the need for officials to be business-like and outward facing, but signal to them to work closely and face upwards not outwards. They face similar contrasting messages from their permanent secretaries, who emphasise the need to focus on delivery and meet targets, but still indicate that policy roles are the most prized. It is little wonder that the system is frequently characterised as defensive, risk-averse and slow. The lines of communication and responsibility between ministers and officials must be clearer, so that officials feel accountable for delivering ministerial priorities. (Paragraph 24)

7.  Effective resistance to change is a mark of the resilience of the Civil Service. This energy needs to be harnessed as a force for change. In fact, we note that far more change has taken place in the Civil Service than is ever acknowledged, though change without a clear analysis, declaration of intent and plan for implementation tends to be disjointed, harder to sustain and altogether less effective. (Paragraph 25)

8.  The Fulton Committee was prevented from considering the relationship between ministers and officials, and was therefore unable to tackle the issue of accountability. The increase in government activity and the increasingly complex challenges facing the Civil Service in the 45 years since Fulton reported mean that a review of the role of the Civil Service, which includes the relationship between ministers and officials, is now long overdue. (Paragraph 26)

9.  We concluded in two Reports this Parliament (Strategic thinking in Government: without National Strategy, can viable Government strategy emerge? and Who does UK National Strategy?) that Government appears to have lost the art of strategic thinking. We also concluded in our 2011 Report, Change in Government: The Agenda for Leadership, that successive governments had failed to reform the Civil Service, because they had failed to consider what the Civil Service is for and what it should do. We stand by our conclusion. There may be superficial changes, but the core of the system will continue to revert to type, rather than to change permanently. There is little to suggest that the latest attempt at Civil Service reform will be any different. (Paragraph 28)

10.  We very much welcome the fact that, subsequent to its response to our Change in Government Report, the Government reversed its position and agreed to publish a Civil Service reform plan. The burden of our criticism in this Report is not that the 2012 Civil Service Reform Plan is too radical but that it is not comprehensive. (Paragraph 30)

11.  The Policy Exchange speech contained a number of more radical proposals reflecting frustration with the pace of change since the Civil Service Reform Plan. This slow and unsatisfactory pace of change is all too typical of attempts to reform the Civil Service in recent decades. We found Sir Bob Kerslake's and Sir Jeremy Heywood's response to questions about the pace of change unconvincing and defensive, reinforcing the impression of a fatal division and lack of consensus amongst those leading reform. This demonstrates that reforms conceived and conducted purely by the government of the day are bound to be limited in scope and by the limited attention which the Prime Minister and senior ministers can devote to it, and highlights why fundamental change of the Civil Service requires an independent review. (Paragraph 38)

12.  Given the vehemence of Ministers' criticism of the Civil Service, in public as well as in private, we are surprised that the Minister for the Cabinet Office has not identified any fundamental problems with the Civil Service and does not believe that fundamental change is necessary. Instead the Minister insisted that there are a range of problems which can be addressed individually but this is not a comprehensive approach. As we have already concluded, "incremental change" has severe limitations. Unless change is clearly heralded and given high profile leadership by a united team of ministers and senior officials, it is bound to fail. (Paragraph 40)

13.  We welcome the Minister's publication of the Institute of Public Policy Research report on Civil Service accountability systems. This publication establishes the important precedent that research commissioned by the Contestable Policy Fund should be published and should not be treated in confidence as "advice to ministers". (Paragraph 44)

14.  There is a close correlation between the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) report and the Minister's thinking, as expressed in his Policy Exchange speech. This does raise questions about how objective research commissioned by ministers in this way might be. It should not be a means of simply validating the opinions of ministers. As we shall see later, the fundamental weakness of the IPPR's paper is that it cherry-picks in isolation particular aspects of different countries' systems without understanding the balancing of the cultural, political, administrative and constitutional context in each case. In addition, the IPPR report did not and was not asked to evaluate whether, in practice, other models in various countries resulted in better government than ours. It provides, however, useful international research and insight into the Government's thinking. (Paragraph 45)

15.  We note the IPPR's distinction between politicisation and personalisation of support for ministers. We believe this is a crucial point that goes to the heart of the debate around ministerial accountability and selection of key officials. (Paragraph 46)

16.  The One Year On report attempts to reconcile the differences between senior officials and ministers about the pace of reform, but the protest that the "joint assessment" is "not a criticism of the Civil Service" serves to underline the tensions between ministers and officials. In the event, the new proposals in the One Year On report were modest. The proposals themselves are a watered down version of the Policy Exchange speech and the IPPR report, suggesting that in the end, the Cabinet shrank from approving more radical proposals, in particular the granting of the final choice of permanent secretaries to the departmental minister. The compromise proposed by the Civil Service Commission in respect of the appointment of departmental permanent secretaries remains in place, but on probation. (Paragraph 50)

17.  Neither the Civil Service Reform Plan nor the One Year On paper are strategic documents. The Government has admitted they were never intended to be so, but we continue to maintain that the lack of a strategic vision for the future of the Civil Service means reform will continue to be confined to a number of disjointed initiatives, some of which may prove permanent, but most of which will either prove to be temporary or will fail to be implemented altogether. The Civil Service Capabilities Plan sets out the skills needed for a 21st century Civil Service without ever defining what the role of the Civil Service perhaps should and could be in the 21st century. The IPPR paper, while a welcome addition to discussion around the future of the Civil Service, was not asked to look at the overall state of the Civil Service, or consider structural changes to the Whitehall model or role of ministers, for example. Once again, we have to reiterate that there has been no comprehensive assessment of the problems and challenges facing the Civil Service, and therefore no case for reform has been articulated. This reflects the lack of any assessment of the capacity for leadership in the Civil Service in order to lead and to implement change. (Paragraph 51)

18.  The Government has not set out the challenges facing the Civil Service in the future, or attempted to answer the question of what the Civil Service is for in the modern age. We therefore very much welcome the new emphasis in the One Year On report on addressing "culture and behaviours" in the Civil Service, in the commitment "to develop a longer-term vision for a reformed Civil Service—the 21st Century Civil Service". This very much reflects our own thinking, but we remain sceptical about how this is to be achieved. (Paragraph 52)

19.  We very much welcome the fact that the Civil Service conducts an annual engagement survey, and that, at 58% in 2012, the average engagement score across departments was encouraging, given the world-class level of 67%. We are most disappointed, however, that this data does not provoke more concern and debate about how to share best practice with the parts of the Civil Service where engagement is so much lower. This demonstrates the need for more independent assessment of this data, and of what actions are required to address it, than the internal Civil Service leadership can provide. (Paragraph 56)

20.  There is no question that any blocking of ministerial decisions by civil servants would be unacceptable. The perception that ministerial decisions are being deliberately blocked or frustrated points to deeper failures in our system of government. Professor Kakabadse's research has highlighted how failing organisations demonstrate common characteristics, and while these may not be evident in all parts of Whitehall, they are certainly evident in some departments and agencies. In our deliberations with ministers and civil servants, most recognise a prevalence of these behaviours. We remain unconvinced that the Government has developed the policies and leadership to address these problems. We have found that both ministers and senior civil servants are still somewhat in denial about their respective accountabilities in respect of the problems of the Civil Service. (Paragraph 65)

21.  We agree with Lord Browne's analysis that the failure to learn from failure is a major obstacle to more effective government, arising from leadership that does not affirm the value of learning. This is something which the Civil Service has yet to learn from successful organisations. The present culture promotes the filtering of honest and complete assessments to ministers and is the antithesis of 'truth to power'. It is a denial of responsibility and accountability. (Paragraph 69)

22.  The Civil Service Reform Plan does not address the fact that effective organisations depend on the relationships between ministers and officials, which in turn depend on the "subtle understandings" between individuals. Instead the Reform Plan is based too much on the notion that it is possible to solve confusions in working relationships simply through structures and ministerial direction. We are therefore concerned that the proposal for increasing the staffing of lead ministers, in the One Year On document, is not made on the basis of any evidence except that ministers, like Nick Herbert, feel accountable but feel unable to rely on their officials to achieve their objectives. The fundamental issue is why some civil servants feel resistant to what ministers want, and this question has not been considered in any systematic way. If lead departmental ministers require additional support, what about the challenges faced by junior ministers, for it is they who express this lack of support more vehemently than secretaries of state? Such an increase in ministerial support should, however, obviate the need for so many junior ministers, in accordance with the recommendations made in our 2011 Report, Smaller Government: What do ministers do?, in which we pointed out that, at that time, the UK Government contained many more ministers (95) than in France (31) or Germany (46). The same question could apply to the number of departments. (Paragraph 74)

23.  We fully concur with the Minister about the need to empower civil servants to take decisions and take responsibility for those decisions. The fact that he cites the Armed Forces which have to operate in a very agile manner demonstrates a key point: that the more uncertain and volatile the environment of politics and government becomes, the greater the need for the exercise of discretion and judgment at all levels, not just at the top. This is well understood by our own Armed Forces by the concept of "delegated mission command". This latter concept does, however, depend on a coherent intent—shared understanding of purpose. Good leadership provides a framework within which people feel they are trusted to use their judgment. The Minister's need for "progress chasing" and "loyalty" suggests that the more uncertain and volatile the environment becomes, the more anxious that ministers and senior officials are to maintain a culture of control. (Paragraph 76)

24.  Departmental civil servants are in an invidious position with conflicting loyalties. The already delicate leadership role of the combination of the secretary of state and his or her permanent secretary makes it extremely difficult for subordinate officials to understand what may be the "shared vision" for the department. The well-documented tensions in that relationship also reflect confusion of messages from the top that may be perceived as contradictory, which leaves the official wondering, "Which should I please: the minister or the permanent secretary? Whose vision do I follow?" This conflict is further compounded by the complexity of relationships between departments, No 10 (the Cabinet Secretary) and the Cabinet Office (the Head of the Civil Service). Ministers have for some years been relying on Special Advisers, specialist temporary civil servants or outside consultants. Even policy-making is now being "outsourced" to think tanks. We find it unsurprising that many officials find resistance is perhaps the only rational response. Adding more "personalised" ministerial appointments to this confusion will not address the fundamental problem, and could add to the chaos. (Paragraph 79)

25.  We are far from persuaded that the creation of separate enclaves of ministerial appointees, who would owe their first loyalty to minsters, will address the concerns for "increased accountability" expressed by the Minister for the Cabinet Office. This is likely to increase the dissonance between ministers and officials in what should be mutually dependent relationships. We sense many ministers aspire to this mutual dependence (Haldane's indivisibility) and are all too aware of what has been lost but do not know how to restore it. As they stand, these proposals are at odds with the aspiration to trust, to empower and to delegate to lower tiers of departments where officials have the discretion to exercise their judgment and will be supported by those above when they do so. (Paragraph 80)

26.  We recognise that progress-chasing is a necessity in any system, but it is a counsel of despair to justify increased ministerial appointees on this basis. It is treating symptoms rather than causes. We find it hard to imagine an effective system of government in which ministers could or should be micro-managing their departments as many feel they must. (Paragraph 81)

27.  We regard the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise as symptomatic of many wider questions concerning governance and leadership within the Civil Service, which have not been addressed in the rush to scapegoat a few officials. Why was the blanket ban on outside financial consultants made to apply in this case, when previously the process had always depended upon it? Why was the process of departmental downsizing not conducted in a more selective manner to avoid the departure of key skills? Why was the consequence of this departure not recognised by line management? What support did line management give to this relatively inexperienced team of officials, which in turn was led by a new official recruited from outside the Civil Service? Why was line management not held as responsible for the outcome as the officials themselves? What effect did the frequent change of ministers and of personnel have on all these questions? We are concerned that this episode demonstrates the tendency of Whitehall to locate blame for failure on a few individuals, rather than to use the lessons of failure, as Lord Browne recommended, to address wider shortcomings in systems and culture. (Paragraph 85)

28.  As we have made clear in our Government IT and Government Procurement Reports, the inability of the Civil Service to develop, recruit, and retain key skills is a fundamental failure of today's Civil Service, which successive Governments and the leadership of the Civil Service have failed to address. The fact that so many with key skills just leave the service also underlines how counterproductive it is to maintain the existing restrictions on salaries and conditions for leading professionals in a modern Civil Service. No other Civil Service in a comparable country operates on the basis that the Prime Minister's salary should be a maximum. Such a myopic policy makes the UK Civil Service internationally uncompetitive. (Paragraph 86)

29.  The rapid turnover of senior civil servants and in particular, of lead departmental permanent secretaries, at a faster rate than Secretaries of State, begs the question: why do we still use the term, "Permanent Civil Service"? Weak departmental leadership contributes to the risk of poor decisions, as demonstrated by the West Coast Main Line franchising debacle, where the department was on its third permanent secretary since the election. We find that this can only reflect a failure of the senior leadership of the Civil Service over a number of years, and a lack of concern about this failure from senior ministers, including recent prime ministers. (Paragraph 92)

30.  The split of the Head of the Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary roles have contributed to weak leadership and confusion over the division of roles, responsibilities and tasks between the centre and the departments. The two roles purport to be equal in status, but the division between "policy" departments responsible to the Cabinet Secretary, and "implementation" departments responsible to the Head of the Civil Service, not only reinforces an artificial separation of policy from implementation but the disparity in status between the roles. (Paragraph 99)

31.  The complexity of government structures contributes to the confusion between the centre and departments. Yet there has been no serious consideration of what the relationship between the centre and the departments of state should be, beyond the Minister for the Cabinet Office's suggestion that a single operating system for Whitehall should be considered. This is again a crucial aspect of government that lacks strategic coherence and clear lines of accountability so that people in the organisation know where they stand, and again underlines the lack of clear analysis and clear strategy in the Government's approach to civil service reform. (Paragraph 100)

32.  Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) within Whitehall departments have no defined role, no fiduciary duties, and it is not clear who can hold them to account. They are more like advisers or mentors than company directors. Their value depends entirely upon how ministers and senior officials seek to use them. Their experience has been mixed, with many departments failing to use the expertise of their NEDS, and a lack of clarity over their roles and responsibilities. NEDs play a key role in some departments in supporting both ministers and officials to work more effectively and efficiently, but this is a very different role from the role of an NED in the private sector. A review of their value and effectiveness should be part of any comprehensive review of the civil service. (Paragraph 104)

33.  We welcome the compromise between the Government and the Civil Service Commission on the appointment of departmental permanent secretaries, which allows for increased involvement for departmental ministers but leaves the recommendation with the Commission's interview panel and the final decision with the Prime Minister. This should avoid any misunderstanding that the decision should bypass a Secretary of State altogether. We recognise the unique demands placed on ministers who do not control the appointment of their most senior official in their department, particularly as this previously almost secret relationship is today more than ever exposed to public scrutiny and to the glare of publicity. Tensions are bound to arise between politicians and their officials who seek to remain impartial, but we are sceptical about whether increased political influence over their appointment would resolve these tensions. Effective working relationships at the top of Whitehall departments depend on openness and trust, and it is far from clear how the Government's original proposal would promote this. We remain concerned that the Government's original proposal is only "on hold" and that the Minister still seems intent on pursuing it without the wider and deeper consideration of the future of the Civil Service which would be needed before taking more radical steps. We wish to make it clear that the Civil Service Commission has our fullest support. (Paragraph 121)

34.  The current levels of turnover of lead permanent secretaries is incompatible with good government. We are sceptical of the Minister's suggestion that fixed-tenure for permanent secretaries will increase the average time spent in post. On the contrary, fixed-term contracts are a means of removing an incumbent, unless safeguards are included, similar to those in New Zealand, where the State Services Commissioner appoints and employs "Chief Executives" and it is he or she who recommends whether the permanent secretary should be reappointed. As the IPPR report points out, the New Zealand system is viewed as the least politicised of the Westminster systems. The Government has cherry-picked the fixed-tenure contracts while looking to enhance the ministerial role in appointments. The danger is that the personalisation of the appointments of permanent secretaries is that they will leave as the renewal point approaches, particularly if the minister who appointed them is no longer around. Our evidence does not suggest that fixed-tenure contracts will address the serious structural and cultural problems in the Civil Service. (Paragraph 125)

35.  The independent evidence in favour of some kind of comprehensive strategic review of the nature, role and purpose of the Civil Service is overwhelming. Our critique of the Civil Service Reform Plan and its limited implementation underlines this. The objections raised by the Minister for the Cabinet Office and by the Leadership of the Civil Service are unconvincing and can be seen as part of the "bias to inertia" which they say they are seeking to address. On the one hand, the Government insists that the present reforms are "urgent". On the other hand, they are too modest and piecemeal to address the root causes of the frustrations which ministers feel beset them or to lead to the kind of transformational change that many believe the Civil Service needs. Parts of the Civil Service Reform Plan may be implemented but, as a change programme, it will fail. Sustained reform has to be initiated by cooperation and supported by external scrutiny and analysis that leads to a comprehensive set of recommendations for change. This cannot be done by ministers and officials who are, as they say themselves, so pressed by far more immediate and high-profile economic, political and international issues. (Paragraph 149)

36.  So we come to the sole and central recommendation of our inquiry and Report, recognising the sheer weight of the evidence which we have received: that a Parliamentary Commission should be established to consider the future of the Civil Service, established as a Joint Committee of both Houses on the same lines as the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards which reported earlier this year. We cannot emphasise enough the importance of this, reflected by the unanimous support of the House of Commons Liaison Committee. Such a Commission could draw on the extensive experience of government and the Civil Service in Parliament and its conclusions would enjoy cross-party consensus. The Commission should do its work alongside current Civil Service reforms, not as an alternative: the published reforms are aimed to address urgent short-term issues, while the Commission should focus on the strategic long-term vision for the Civil Service, for which the Government has, in its One Year On report, recognised the need. The fact that more radical measures that challenge the Northcote-Trevelyan settlement are also being discussed underlines the need for Parliament to oversee proper consideration of issues that are fundamental to the way our uncodified constitution operates. The Civil Service does not exist solely to serve the Government of the day, but also future Governments. It is right and proper that substantial reforms to the role of the Civil Service should be scrutinised by Parliament. Such a Parliamentary Commission could be established before the end of the year and report before the end of the current Parliament so that after the 2015 general election a comprehensive change programme can be implemented. (Paragraph 150)

37.  Any inquiry into the Civil Service could usefully start by cataloguing how the nation, society and the world has changed since the Fulton Committee reported 45 years ago, in order to provide a fresh context for considering the future of the Civil Service. Some of these issues will have to be considered in greater detail. (Paragraph 152)

38.  The impact of these reforms on Parliament and the relationship between Government and Parliament warrant further and comprehensive consideration by Parliament. As former Cabinet Secretary Lord Wilson of Dinton commented, supposedly limited changes borrowed from other country's systems could lead to unforeseen consequences from these changes. This is not an excuse for any of the proposed changes to be delayed. It is, however, a reason for these changes to be considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses. (Paragraph 154)

39.  It is crucial that the relationship between ministers and officials is not excluded from consideration by any inquiry into the future of the Civil Service. (Paragraph 156)

40.  In line with the Minister's question about whether Whitehall should move towards "a more unified operating system", this must be a major part of the inquiry, but only after the necessary data has been gathered and analysed and the conclusions to be drawn from it have been accepted by all concerned, so that organisational changes are a means to an end, and not an end in themselves. (Paragraph 158)

41.  The question of how to reconcile the political and institutional leadership of Whitehall so there is a shared understanding of what change is needed and how it is to be managed is an essential component of success. This flows from the consideration of the relationship between ministers, officials and Parliament. At present, there is little or no collective leadership in the accepted sense of the word and this issue can no longer be avoided. (Paragraph 160)

42.  A review of the Civil Service must build on the work of the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee regarding the relationship between central and local government. (Paragraph 162)

43.  The decision to abolish the National School for Government with so little discussion or consultation must be revisited. The arguments for some such institution need to be reassessed. It should be an institution which promotes continuing change as well a centre of research, learning, history and wisdom. (Paragraph 166)

44.  The impact of devolution and decentralisation on one of our central institutions of state has hardly been given any external consideration, and yet the consequences are potentially very significant and underappreciated. (Paragraph 169)

45.  The draft remit of the Parliamentary Commission on the Civil Service should be to consider and report on:

a)  The relationship between the Government and the people, and how the Civil Service should be made more responsive to the citizens to ensure government by the people for the people in today's world;

b)  the purpose, structure, skills and culture of Cabinet Government and the UK Civil Service, taking account of the challenges facing the Civil Service and the country as a whole; and

c)  the importance of leadership within the Civil Service, and the relationship between ministers and officials.

d)  The Commission should make recommendations for legislative and other action and determine how any recommendations shall be implemented within a fixed timescale, and how such implementation will be independently monitored. (Paragraph 174)

46.  Until the present Parliament the House of Commons used to hold a full one-day debate on the Civil Service every year. There has been no such debate on the Civil Service in this Parliament and the Government should ensure that such a debate is held at the earliest opportunity on a motion to establish the proposed Commission as quickly as possible. (Paragraph 175)

47.  The Government, like many of its predecessors, is committed to reforming the Civil Service. It has not, however, learnt the key lesson from past failed attempts at reform. The Minister for the Cabinet Office has admitted that the failings in the Civil Service which need reform are also the key obstacles to that reform of the Civil Service. This internal resistance to reform was not addressed by past reform programmes, which either chose not to, or were prevented from, looking at the Civil Service in a strategic manner, and considering the issue of accountability—which emerged as the central theme in our evidence. (Paragraph 176)

48.  In line with previous reform programmes, the Civil Service Reform Plan and the One Year On update paper do not look strategically at the challenges facing the Civil Service of the future. These challenges will be more fluid and complex than those of the present, and will require the Civil Service to operate in a more open and engaged manner. Furthermore, "speaking truth to power" may be a more complex concept if power has diffused out of nation states: civil servants are already confronting ministers with the need to consider the question of whose truth to whose power, in respect of international law and, more immediately, in respect of our EU and ECHR treaty obligations. (Paragraph 177)

49.  We have recommended the establishment of a Parliamentary Commission into the Civil Service. The aim of this Commission should be to ensure that the Civil Service has the values, philosophy and structure capable of constant regeneration in the face of a faster pace of change. The importance of this review to the future working of government in this country means that it is fitting for the Treasury to fund this work, in the same manner as the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. (Paragraph 178)

50.  We do not call for a Parliamentary Commission into the Civil Service to obstruct or slow the Government's current reforms. In fact we support many of these reforms. We believe, however, that a long-term look at the Civil Service will enable these reforms to be implemented and embedded in a more effective and strategic Civil Service to serve both the current and future Governments. We believe it would be unwise and an example of short-term thinking to reject a strategic consideration of the Civil Service, when it can and should exist alongside the implementation of urgent reforms. We do not believe that the Government's reform plans can be successful without this deeper analysis taking place. Without a Parliamentary Commission, ministers may find that in the next Parliament it will become ever harder to get those things done that must be done if our country is to survive and prosper. (Paragraph 179)


 
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