UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 74-ii

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Public Administration Select Committee

Future of the Civil Service

Monday 24 June 2013

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1111 – 1219

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Public Administration Select Committee

on Monday 24 June 2013

Members present:

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Chair)

Robert Halfon

Kelvin Hopkins

Priti Patel

Mr Steve Reed

________________

Examination of Witness

Witness: Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, gave evidence.

Q1111 Chair: May I welcome our witness back to this extra evidence session on the subject of Civil Service reform? By way of introduction, perhaps I can just invite you to identify yourself for the record.

Mr Maude: I am Francis Maude. I am Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Q1112 Chair: The reason we have asked you back for this extra session-and I am extremely grateful for your coming-is that since our last evidence session you have made a very significant speech, which may not signify a change in Government policy, as yet, but clearly signals some further thinking. We wanted to use this opportunity to continue the conversation that we were enjoying at our last session. Also, you have very kindly published, at our request, the IPPR report on Accountability and Responsiveness in the Senior Civil Service: Lessons from Overseas, and we wanted to ask you a little bit about that too. Is there anything you want to add about that?

Mr Maude: No, I do not think so.

Q1113 Chair: Thank you very much. We are implementing a new policy; we are going to ask very short questions, in the hope that you will give short and crisp answers and in order that we can get through in the hour. In your speech at Policy Exchange, you said, "Too little of what we set out nearly 12 months ago has been fully executed", "Too many things that should have been done haven’t happened", "The things that need reform are exactly the things that make reform difficult." You aired a number of new ideas, which we will be coming to. In all this, what do you think is the fundamental problem that the Civil Service Reform Plan seeks to address in the Civil Service?

Mr Maude: I do not think there is a single fundamental problem. I do not think there is a fundamental problem, actually. I think there are number of problems, all of which are soluble, and what we sought to do in the Plan was to isolate them, identify them and address them.

Q1114 Chair: What do you feel is the problem that a new iteration of the Civil Service Reform Plan seeks to address, which the original Plan does not address?

Mr Maude: What do you mean: the oneyearon report?

Chair: I appreciate that you are not making any announcements today, but in your speech you said you were going to bring forward a refresh of the Civil Service Reform Plan.

Mr Maude: Yes, we always said we would do that; we would report one year on, on progress.

Q1115 Chair: You aired these new ideas. Why do you think these new ideas are necessary today, when you did not feel they were necessary a year ago?

Mr Maude: I did not air new ideas; I asked questions. These are questions that have been raised by others, in some cases by yourself-they have been raised in this Committee-in other cases by the Institute for Government reports, various different reports. There was nothing terribly new in any of the questions that I asked in my speech at Policy Exchange. The appointment of permanent secretaries is not a new question; we flagged that in the original Civil Service Reform Plan. The issue of tenure for permanent secretaries was raised by Tony Blair nine years ago in 2004. In fact, he announced policy on it; he announced a change. The issue of support for Ministers is one that has been raised in repeated studies, going back actually to the Fulton Commission and beyond, so that is not a new issue. The issue of functional leadership was one that we raised in the Civil Service Reform Plan.

Q1116 Chair: Functional leadership?

Mr Maude: Yes, the crosscutting functions, such as finance, HR, IT and digital, commercial and procurement, communications and legal services. We raised those issues in a rather indefinite way in the Civil Service Reform Plan-shared services. Obviously we set out rather a specific programme there, but again there is nothing new in that. That goes back to what Sir Peter Gershon recommended in 2004, so there is nothing new in it.

Q1117 Chair: There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Civil Service, even though the fact remains that too many things that should have been done have not happened. Is that not something pretty fundamental?

Mr Maude: No, there is no single fundamental thing that is wrong. There are a number of weaknesses that need to be addressed, and we think we are addressing them.

Q1118 Chair: Okay, but what has given rise to all these separate weaknesses? Why have these separate weaknesses arisen? What is the thing in common that all these fundamental weaknesses have?

Mr Maude: I do not think there is necessarily anything specific in common behind them all.

Q1119 Chair: If a number of different things were going wrong in an organisation for which I was responsible, I would want to look at the leadership of that organisation.

Mr Maude: Yes, that is a point of view.

Q1120 Chair: What is therefore wrong with the leadership of the Civil Service?

Mr Maude: It has lacked dedicated leadership in the past, and that is why we have decided to split the role and create the role of Head of the Civil Service, distinct from that of the Cabinet Secretary.

Q1121 Chair: As an institution, the splitting of the role of the Cabinet Secretary and the Head of the Civil Service has resolved the leadership problem in the Civil Service.

Mr Maude: It has certainly improved matters, yes.

Q1122 Chair: There is nothing else wrong with the leadership of the Civil Service?

Mr Maude: Would anyone say that the leadership of any organisation, at any stage, is perfect? No, I doubt it.

Q1123 Chair: What analysis have you got that these problems have arisen simply because the Cabinet Secretary and the Head of the Civil Service were the same person?

Mr Maude: I did not say that. You suggested that it was all about leadership and I do not think it is. The deficiencies in capability that we identified, which are very clear, or civil servants themselves have identified them and the need for improvement there: is that all about leadership? These are problems that have emerged over years, if not decades.

Q1124 Chair: How will the reforms that you have already announced and the other ones that you are thinking about address those fundamental problems?

Mr Maude: You have to take them in turn. We set out in the Reform Plan a year ago some specific remedies, and some of them have progressed better than others. That has not been particularly surprising.

Q1125 Priti Patel: I would like to add really. The Chairman has mentioned leadership and you yourself have referred to dedicated leadership. Would you say that it is more cultural, in terms of the way of working of the organisation and the institution of the Civil Service, rather than just the style of leadership?

Mr Maude: The Civil Service became quite siloed over many years. A lot of the sense of it being a unified Civil Service, a unified ethos across the Civil Service, a unified culture, that existed to a greater extent when I was around in Government before. Some of that has been lost, it has become much more separate and that is a problem, one which we set out last year in the Civil Service Reform Plan. We have made some changes and developed some other changes yet to be implemented, which will start to address that.

Q1126 Chair: Why do you think there has been so much public friction-briefing against permanent secretaries-about the changes in the Civil Service that you want to bring about, if there is not something fundamental going on about the nature of the Civil Service? Why do you think all of that has occurred?

Mr Maude: When you have an institution that has existed for many years in times of relative plenty and you have the urgent need for the public to deliver public services for considerably less money with considerably fewer people, that is bound to lead to tensions. One of the things that we too seldom celebrate is that the Civil Service today is 15% or so smaller than it was in 2010, when the Coalition Government was formed, after a sustained period of growth in the size of the Civil Service, and yet few people would say that it is doing less. There has been a marked improvement in productivity in that time. That kind of change imposes stresses on any system, so it is to the very great credit of lots of civil servants that they continue to provide important public services to people who depend on them but are doing so at significantly less cost and with fewer people.

Q1127 Chair: Why do you think some people complain of the inertia in their Departments and in the Civil Service?

Mr Maude: As I set out in my speech-and people inside the Civil Service will say this as well-there is a bias to inertia in the system, and that is a cultural and behavioural thing. It is very hierarchical. Change tends to be subjected to endless scrutiny, while the status quo is often left unchallenged. These are deepseated issues that many will refer to, many civil servants as well as Ministers and outsiders. Other stakeholders will talk about it.

Chair: I think everyone agrees that we need change and the question is how we can bring about that change-

Mr Maude: Pretty much everyone agrees on what the change is as well.

Q1128 Chair: The question is whether these reforms are actually going to address the inertia in the system to make it more agile and more responsive. That was presumably why you commissioned this report.

Mr Maude: Yes.

Q1129 Kelvin Hopkins: Very briefly, I am still not clear what is actually wrong. I spent 23 years of my life working in two bureaucracies. You could see what was wrong: lack of intellectual capability, dilatory-delivering things late-not doing what they are asked, doing things that they are not asked and all sorts of very specific things that were wrong and could be addressed. Can you give a list like that?

Mr Maude: You have described a lot of the things we identified in the Civil Service Reform Plan. For a lack of capability, we identified four particular areas that need to be addressed. We have now published a capability plan. It is fairly highlevel and it needs a lot more work and implementation behind it, but it is a start. We are being honest about the issues now. Dilatory delivery; a lack of implementation planning; a lack of accountability; a focus on process, not outcomes: these are all things that were actually identified. Not doing things that were asked and doing things that were not asked-we have a specific issue in the Plan about ensuring that resources are matched to ministerial priorities, because that is something again that Ministers, over the years, have raised. They do not always find it easy to get done what they have asked to be done, and yet they find things being done that they have not asked to be done.

Q1130 Chair: This list of problems and things going wrong in the Civil Service: what does that say to you about the quality of leadership of the Civil Service?

Mr Maude: The leadership needs to do what Bob Kerslake and Jeremy Heywood have done, which is, with Ministers, to identify these weaknesses and start to address them.

Q1131 Chair: Why do you think the Civil Service was not addressing them before? That is what they are paid for, is it not?

Mr Maude: You would have to ask them rather than me.

Q1132 Chair: Previously the leadership of the Civil Service was quite a fundamental problem.

Mr Maude: I think it was very dispersed. You had a Head of the Civil Service who was also the Cabinet Secretary. You had Departments that were operating in a very separate and compartmentalised way, and so the leadership was very dispersed and operating in a very consensual way. There is nothing wrong with being consensual, but quite often it can settle at the lowest common denominator, rather than opting for the highoctane, driving, energetic change.

Q1133 Chair: A more centralised system is required.

Mr Maude: Not necessarily more centralised.

Chair: Less dispersed?

Mr Maude: Maybe less dispersed, yes.

Q1134 Robert Halfon: Could I just ask if you have had a chance to look at the Committee’s digital engagement report?

Mr Maude: On public participation?

Robert Halfon: Yes.

Mr Maude: I have, yes.

Q1135 Robert Halfon: Are you able just to give a brief thought on your early thoughts on it?

Mr Maude: Not at this stage really, no. We will respond in due course. Opening up policy-making is one of the things we set out in the Civil Service Reform Plan, and I would say we are making reasonable progress on that front.

Q1136 Robert Halfon: You used the IPPR as an example of contestable policy-making. How did you decide, of all the things to have contestable policy-making on, you would choose Civil Service reform, and how did you select the IPPR?

Mr Maude: We were very keen to, having set up the Contestable Policy Fund-which was widely welcomed-to use it and put it into operation early on. Since then, there have been a number of bids to use it. I do not administer it, so I would not be able to say how many, although we can let you know.

Q1137 Robert Halfon: Contestable policy-making: how is it decided which policy areas are going to be opened out?

Mr Maude: It is for Ministers to bid.

Robert Halfon: Through you, through the Cabinet Office?

Mr Maude: I would need to check, but I think the mechanism we set up was that there is a small group who decide on the bids, which I think is Oliver Letwin and Danny Alexander. That is my recollection, but I would need to check that. It is a very modest fund; these are very small numbers, expressly designed to pay out at think tank rates, not massive consultancy rates. Why did we choose this? What you want is to use it in areas where there is a particular premium on getting outside thinking. When you are talking about the Civil Service reform, one of the things that struck me was that we did not get very much when we were doing the work preparing the Civil Service Reform Plan. We did not get very much insight into other systems, other jurisdictions, how they work and the comparative studies. We did not get very much insight into the history. For example, no one drew my attention to the Tony Blair speech in 2004, where he announced various things about Civil Service reform. We thought it would be valuable to get an outside perspective and some much more detailed research.

Q1138 Robert Halfon: What do you say to the possible criticism that some might say going to the IPPR, for example, for this is very much still an insiderish, Westminsterish type of view, rather than really making it accessible and going outside to the nonWestminster village?

Mr Maude: It is a balance really. They have done some very interesting work in this area. They had a high level of expertise and knowledge, a very open approach and a reputable record for doing evidencebased work. To be honest, we did not have all that many bids.

Q1139 Robert Halfon: The second critique is that, if you were going to go to an insider think thank, and you went to them and said, "Will you help us?" they would probably have done it for nothing, because of the prestige and so on working for a Government project. How do you answer that?

Mr Maude: If we want a particular piece of work done, it is reasonable to pay them. What we paid was peanuts in the scheme of things.

Q1140 Robert Halfon: What did you pay the IPPR?

Mr Maude: I cannot remember the exact amount, but it was well below £100,000 for a very substantive piece of work. You say it was "insiderish"; it is a very reputable think tank. For a piece of work commissioned by a Conservative and Lib Dem coalition, it did not feel that insiderish to commission the work from a think tank whose director was Gordon Brown’s head of policy.

Robert Halfon: That may not be Conservative insiderish, but it can be perceived by some as very Westminster insiderish.

Mr Maude: I see that, but actually the reality is there were academic outfits that might have been interested in doing this, but none of them bid for the work and some of them, I think, wanted not to be in a position where it looked like they were working for the Government.

Q1141 Robert Halfon: How did you advertise that the work was available?

Mr Maude: My recollection is that we made public what the scope of the work was. It is a long time ago now, but my recollection is that we had somewhere between 15 and 20 expressions of interest from a variety of organisations, some think tanks, some academic, some university units.

Q1142 Robert Halfon: When you say "public", do you mean on the internet or was it traditional procurement?

Mr Maude: I cannot remember, to be honest. I can give you the detail. We got a lot of expressions of interest, which was the key thing, from a wide range.

Q1143 Robert Halfon: You set the terms of reference, did you?

Mr Maude: Yes, absolutely. That is very much in the nature of it. We set out in the Civil Service Reform Plan how open policy-making was meant to work. In the chart-

Chair: Can we take that as read, for brevity’s sake?

Mr Maude: Perhaps I could just finish answering the question, which is that part of the column that was about what is good about open policy making was something that said "unmediated access to Ministers". This was very much meant to be for Ministers to commission work very directly, which was what we did.

Q1144 Chair: Thank you. Sorry to interrupt you. You originally commissioned that report in autumn last year, and you got a first draft in early this year. What was the reason for the delay in the publication?

Mr Maude: They wanted to do some more research, to widen the research. They felt that that would be valuable. I am not sure that I did see a draft report. They came in at various stages, as you would expect with any policy development; with civil servants developing policy in house, you would expect them to come in at regular intervals, expose their thinking and expose the findings.

Chair: You were able to discuss it with them and have an iterative conversation.

Mr Maude: Yes, absolutely.

Chair: To some extent, the output is directed by the Ministers, as any policy development would be.

Mr Maude: Yes. You are setting out what are the problems you are seeking to solve and you are asking for help in solving them. That is what policy development is about.

Q1145 Chair: You helped draft bits of the report.

Mr Maude: No.

Chair: You did not suggest any words or phrases in any of the report.

Mr Maude: I do not think so, not that I can recollect. This is a very iterative process, as it would be with any policy development.

Chair: It is more like the way any of us MPs would work with a think tank on the draft of a policy pamphlet.

Mr Maude: Yes.

Q1146 Chair: The IfG suggested, Jill Rutter suggested, that in fact if you are going to do contestable policy-making like this, you should commission the same work from inside the Civil Service as a comparator. Did you do that?

Mr Maude: No, we did not.

Q1147 Chair: Do you think it would be useful if you did that?

Mr Maude: Not fantastically, to be honest, because the reality is, when you get a piece of work like this, the first thing you do with it is, when you form your conclusions about what are the sorts of parts of it you want to take up and what are the parts you do not, you are going to ask your civil servants to develop it. It would be a bit redundant, particularly when this was very much about getting the evidence and doing research. It would be pretty pointless to get a whole lot of civil servants to exactly replicate that.

Chair: It might be the same; it might be different. It is one thing to ask for your civil servants’ private advice on policy, which is not published, on this paper. It would be quite another thing to ask your civil servants to publish another paper publicly, so that the public can be engaged in the debate between, perhaps, two different views about these matters.

Mr Maude: We could do that, but it would be-

Q1148 Chair: What is the objection to that?

Mr Maude: Because civil servants’ time is scarce and we decided that this is the way we wanted to explore this, which will happen in other areas with other aspects of policy development. Quite outside this particular process of having contestable policy created in this way, it is not at all uncommon to get outside bodies to do work for Government. Would you automatically get civil servants to replicate that? No, you generally do it because you want the outside expertise.

Q1149 Chair: What is contestable about contestable policy making if the only policy you put into the public domain was the one you personally commissioned and agree with?

Mr Maude: To be honest, the contestable part in this context came about because the work that was done by civil servants in preparing the Civil Service Reform Plan-although some of these issues were flagged in that-was not done.

Q1150 Kelvin Hopkins: It sounds to me very much like you have a conflict of ideas between yourselves and the Civil Service, and you want to get people who think like you outside to tell the civil servants, "This is what we want," and to marginalise the civil servants. Is that fair?

Mr Maude: No, it is not at all fair. Why do you say there is a conflict between what I want and what civil servants want?

Q1151 Kelvin Hopkins: I have raised this question many times. Over the last 30 years, there has been a very substantial shift in the ideology of the political class, if you like-something I disagree with. Personally, if I was a civil servant, I would feel very uncomfortable about it.

Mr Maude: The Civil Service is not meant to be ideological; it is meant to be politically impartial.

Q1152 Kelvin Hopkins: Indeed, but if they think something is wrong and mistaken and they say to a Minister, "I think this won’t work," they can either be considered to be wise and knowing or awkward and difficult.

Mr Maude: It has always been the case that, if civil servants think that a policy is wrong and will not work, and will thus be a bad use of taxpayers’ money, then the accounting officer is under an obligation to ask the Minister for a written direction, which then does become public and rightly so. That is something that is too often regarded as a kind of nuclear device that can never be used. It is a perfectly proper thing. Confident Ministers should have no difficulty in justifying going ahead with something if they think it is right, even if the accounting officer takes a more cautious view.

Q1153 Kelvin Hopkins: Very quickly, some years ago, under the previous Government, I met a civil servant who is now no longer working in the Civil Service, who said that, "If you come up with evidencebased policy and the Ministers don’t like the policy, they say, ‘Get rid of the evidence.’" Is that kind of thing not a typical extension?

Mr Maude: That would be very wrong. I am in favour of moving to an approach where, as a matter of course, the default setting is that Ministers publish the evidence on which decisions are based. We increasingly do publish data, as a matter of course. The British Government is regarded as the world leader in open data. Others are catching up and it is a constantly moving scene. Obviously you want to protect the policy discussions, debate and policy advice that is given to Ministers from public scrutiny, otherwise there is a danger that it stops being candid, challenging and open. I personally think the default setting should be that we publish the evidence on which policy is decided, so the people can see what the factual evidence upon which you are taking decisions is.

Q1154 Priti Patel: I would like to move on to have a discussion about your thoughts and insight into permanent secretary appointments, contracts and, in particular, performance and performance management issues. To start off the conversation, in your view, do you think there is currently a difficulty within the system with removing permanent secretaries who are underperforming or who should raise their game, think more innovatively, embrace a different style and particularly a different style of leadership as well?

Mr Maude: Permanent secretaries are appointed with tenure. The way Tony Blair’s announcement in 2004 was implemented was simply to insert a line into the appointment letter of permanent secretaries to say that the norm will be four years in the post, and there will be some sort of conversation about it some time before the four years. I do not think that anyone has felt that that amounted to a fixed tenure. Britain is an outlier in that field.

Q1155 Priti Patel: I will come back to the whole issue of performance management, in particular. Do you think the systems that are in place right now are effective enough to performance manage permanent secretaries? You mentioned very clear leadership earlier on, based on objectives and also outputs, in terms of Government outputs and departmental objectives and outputs as well.

Mr Maude: It is absolutely common ground, both in the political world and in the Civil Service, that performance management in the Civil Service has far too long not been rigorous enough. In the People Surveys that Gus O’Donnell very sensibly introduced, it constantly comes up that people in the Civil Service feel performance management has been inadequate, that outstanding performance has not been sufficiently recognised and underperformance rigorously enough addressed. I think that is improving; it is one of the areas in which there has been marked improvement.

Bob Kerslake published recently in April the competency framework, which is a single Civil Servicewide framework of the behaviours and competencies that are expected. It is a very good document; I warmly commend it. As we have all said, the proof is the extent to which it is used rigorously, in every performance appraisal, in every promotion board, in every recruitment. If that happens, it will start to instil much more rigorous and uniform standards across the Civil Service.

As far as permanent secretaries are concerned, one of the very good steps that have been taken is to publish permanent secretaries’ objectives. We did it for the first time last year, albeit well into the year. In future it will be much earlier. What that does begin to give-they are sometimes a bit redacted for public purposes, but they set out quite a lot of granular detail as to what the objectives are; they enable performance management to be very much more transparent than it has been in the past.

Q1156 Priti Patel: Do you think fouryear fixedterm contracts for permanent secretaries would improve performance?

Mr Maude: It is hard to know for certain, but other jurisdictions have moved to fixed contracts. It is not clear to me that fixed contracts are possible in our employment law situation, but Tony Blair thought he had moved to fixed tenure, where you had a fixed tenure in the role that could be extended, but you should not expect necessarily to stay beyond that period. What the right period is, I think, is very much open to debate.

Q1157 Priti Patel: This does relate to permanent secretaries’ appointments. On what grounds what a Prime Minister choose not to renew an appointment of a permanent secretary? Would it be performance, management, competency, skills? What are the framework and the criteria for that assessment?

Mr Maude: If we moved to this system you would expect it to be on the basis of a rigorous assessment of performance and suitability. Often needs change; the demands of the role change. It would be after very considerable discussion with the Head of the Civil Service and, no doubt, the Secretary of State and the Department. These are not decisions to be made lightly.

Q1158 Chair: Can I just follow up? We know that there is some serious bad performance in parts of the Civil Service. What evidence is there that it is simply a lack of ability at performance management is the principal problem? What evidence is there of that? Is there no evidence of other problems?

Mr Maude: I do not think I have said it is only about that. Have I?

Q1159 Chair: Your thesis seems to be that if you can appoint senior officials and you can performance manage them these other fundamental problems that we have discussed can be dealt with more effectively. Have I not understood correctly?

Mr Maude: I have been at absolute pains throughout the whole of this process to stress that there is not one single thing that solves all problems. There has been a concern that the Prime Minister has expressed, and former Prime Ministers as well-Tony Blair in very strong terms-about accountability of the Civil Service, so we are looking for ways to strengthen accountability.

Q1160 Chair: We will come on to accountability. Can you give any examples of where a Prime Minister or a Secretary of State has had a problem removing an underperforming permanent secretary?

Mr Maude: I am absolutely not going to get into that territory.

Chair: You believe that those examples exist.

Mr Maude: I am simply not going to get into that territory. It would be wrong to do so.

Q1161 Chair: How can we judge the need for a policy that would enable Ministers to appoint and get rid of permanent secretaries if we cannot see any evidence that this would actually make a difference to the public service?

Mr Maude: This is one of the difficulties about all of this being very public, and I am not willing to go into all of that in public.

Chair: That makes policy-making quite difficult.

Mr Maude: Not really, but it does make discussion of some of it in public quite difficult.

Q1162 Chair: Why have you decided not to wait until you have trialled the new system-which seemed to have been agreed earlier this year, for the new arrangements that were set out in December by the Civil Service Commission for the appointment of permanent secretaries?

Mr Maude: We are waiting.

Chair: You are waiting.

Mr Maude: Yes.

Q1163 Chair: How do you view the objections to the policy you put out in the Civil Service reform speech that the Prime Minister chooses from a list? How do you view the objections raised by the Civil Service Commission?

Mr Maude: I am sorry; I am not following you.

Chair: How do you view the objections raised by the First Civil Service Commissioner to the original proposals you had in the Civil Service Reform Plan, which you reiterated in the Policy Exchange speech, to choosing from a list of proposed candidates?

Mr Maude: For the Secretary of State or the Minister in charge of the Department to select from a panel of approved appointable candidates?

Chair: Yes.

Mr Maude: I have said and the Prime Minister has said that we think it is a mistaken view. It is their decision. They have made some moves to strengthen-or at least formalise and be more open about-the involvement of Ministers in the appointment of permanent secretaries, moves that we welcome. As we said, we will see how it works in practice.

Q1164 Chair: You will leave it until the end of the year before you make any changes.

Mr Maude: We said that we will see how it works in the first year or so. I cannot remember exactly when they changed the guidance. I think it was in November/December last year.

Q1165 Chair: Sir Bob Kerslake told us in evidence, "We have now agreed a process, which we are going to try out over the current year to see whether it addresses Ministers’ concerns and meets the views of the commissioner." Finally on this subject, what assessment have you made about the impact of fixedterm contracts on the culture of the senior Civil Service?

Mr Maude: What, here?

Chair: If you are proposed this as an idea, what impact is it going to have on the senior Civil Service and what assessment have you made of that?

Mr Maude: We have looked at the studies of what has been done elsewhere, which the IfG has done and IPPR has done. There have been a number of studies, and certainly those in Australia, New Zealand and Canada have very similar systems to ours. I have not talked to people in Canada; I have talked to them in Australia and New Zealand, and they say that it is strengthened accountability.

Q1166 Chair: One of the things that has been raised persistently with us is churn at the top of the Civil Service, which suggests that tenure of permanent secretaries is too short rather than too long, the West Coast Main Line being an example. How would your fixedterm contracts address that problem?

Mr Maude: No one is talking about fixedterm contracts, because that is very difficult to do. We are talking about fixed tenure in the British system. If you were to go down that path, one of the effects might easily be to lengthen average tenure.

Chair: That might be one of the objectives: to lengthen tenure rather than shorten it.

Mr Maude: It might be one of the effects of it.

Q1167 Chair: It might be more difficult to get rid of an underperforming civil servant.

Mr Maude: The effect might be to lengthen tenure.

Chair: I remember Derek Lewis, the Director General of the Prison Service, was on a fixedterm contract.

Mr Maude: Yes, but he was appointed from outside. He was not a permanent civil servant.

Chair: But he was on a fixedterm contract and, of course, one of the results of terminating his contract early is that it was very expensive to remove him.

Mr Maude: Yes, indeed. That is one of the reasons why moving on to fixedterm contracts is not necessarily the right thing to do.

Q1168 Chair: Why do you think Tony Blair’s proposal was not implemented?

Mr Maude: I do not know.

Chair: You must have asked.

Mr Maude: The people who would have been responsible for implementing it are long gone.

Chair: There must be some institutional memory about it.

Mr Maude: You are much better equipped to ask them than I am. Who would have been the Cabinet Secretary at the time? I guess Andrew Turnbull and Gus O’Donnell would have been.

Kelvin Hopkins: We have Lord Butler down the corridor and he was there at the start.

Mr Maude: Not in 2004 he was not.

Chair: We will find the culprit.

Mr Maude: Tell me when you find out what the answer was.

Q1169 Mr Reed: Minister, in your speech to the Policy Exchange, you stated that Ministers in this country are less well supported than in any comparable country. What is the evidence you were thinking of?

Mr Maude: The evidence is it was clear from the work that we had already looked at. The IfG had done some work and conversations with others in other jurisdictions, but the evidence is amply adduced in the IPPR report.

Q1170 Mr Reed: Which pieces of that evidence stick in your mind most strongly?

Mr Maude: On any comparative view, Ministers’ offices here are smaller and staffed almost exclusively by career civil servants whose next job is in the gift of the permanent secretary, rather than the Minister. There is no other similar system to ours where that is the case, either of those factors.

Q1171 Mr Reed: What are the most important effects of that lack of support on Ministers? I might put that differently: in what areas is the support lacking most significantly?

Mr Maude: How does it manifest itself? Simply a lack of firepower to get things done: people to do progress tracing, people whose overwhelming loyalty is to the Minister. A lot of it is about progress tracing.

Q1172 Mr Reed: In your view, are there any particular skills that Ministers need more support to develop or exercise?

Mr Maude: Probably lots; skills for Ministers themselves?

Mr Reed: Yes.

Mr Maude: I am sure lots. All Ministers come to being a Minister from a massive variety of different backgrounds with massively different skill sets. Civil servants will say that the best thing that a Minister coming to office can do is be selfaware about what his or her working style is. The fact is everyone thinks their working style is completely normal. In fact, all of our working styles are completely idiosyncratic. Mine is completely normal, of course.

Q1173 Mr Reed: Colleagues have been alluding directly and indirectly to leadership skills and the need for those in leading change in Departments. Do Ministers need additional support to develop and exhibit leadership skills to lead change in their Departments?

Mr Maude: That is a very general question and it is not really easy to give a general answer. You generally do not get to be a Minister without some kind of leadership ability, but in general Ministers are not necessarily encouraged to exercise leadership-other than political leadership-in the Department. Maybe they should be encouraged to do so more. I do not know; it is a very good question, actually.

Q1174 Mr Reed: A lot of the proposals that you have announced more recently seem to relate to the Minister and the team immediately around them, rather than the leadership skills that they would need to lead change in the entire organisation. I wondered to what extent you had thought of that wider issue in coming to these proposals.

Mr Maude: It is in the essence of our system that you have dual leadership of a Department. You have Ministers and officials, and it only works well when they are completely aligned: when everything the civil servants in the Department hear is exactly the same from both sides. That is then very powerful, which is why everyone has always said-Jeremy Heywood had said this here, Bob Kerslake, the Prime Minister said it at the Liaison Committee-the most important relationship is that between a Secretary of State and a permanent secretary.

Q1175 Mr Reed: That would not be the only relationship that was important in delivering change of the kind you would hope a Minister might be ambitious to achieve in a Department. How do these proposals strengthen leadership at all levels in the Civil Service or a Department?

Mr Maude: In our system, it should not be for Ministers to lead managerial, operational change in their Department. That is emphatically, in our system, reserved to the permanent secretary to lead that. What Ministers will want to do is to be part of leading the culture and behaviour change. For example, the fantastic work that Iain Duncan Smith is leading in DWP in introducing Universal Credit requires frontline staff in DWP to do things very differently. That will only happen with a very strong sense of leadership, both within the official part of the Department and from Ministers. In a way, they have and it is rather inspiring to listen to front-line staff who have been going through this process to understand what it is that the Minister is trying to achieve. They are the ones who actually have to, day by day and hour by hour, put it into effect on the ground.

Q1176 Mr Reed: Sure, and what effect does it have on delivering change if, from time to time, as Ministers sometimes do, they stand up and denounce the Department or the team that they are working with?

Mr Maude: I said this before here and I will say it again: I am not aware of anyone who stands up and says, "It’s all terrible. I hate it all." I can make a speech where I say nine positive things and one critical thing, but the critical thing is the only thing that gets reported. That is one of the frustrating things, but we have to be honest. To try to pretend that everything is fine when it is not is as demoralising to civil servants, who can see that things are not right, as to hear the criticisms. What they do not want to hear is criticism for the sake of criticism: criticism without solutions. I find, when I talk to large groups of civil servants, which I fairly frequently do, about Civil Service reform, and when I talk about the way the Civil Service can be and needs to be for the future, I get a very positive response. You can see people nodding and responding very warmly, because people want to be part of an organisation that is performing at the top of its game.

Q1177 Mr Reed: One of the concerns that you and other Ministers have made is that the Civil Service can be insufficiently responsive. To what extent can that be blamed on Ministers?

Mr Maude: If Ministers are not clear about what they want a response to that could be the fault of Ministers, but where Ministers are quite clear what it is they want, then I would absolve Ministers.

Q1178 Mr Reed: Thinking about the expanded teams that you envisage supporting Ministers, what questions did you ask about possible conflicts with NorthcoteTrevelyan before proposing that?

Mr Maude: I have not proposed it. I have simply asked the question. It has been proposed by the IfG, which explicitly says that it is completely consistent with NorthcoteTrevelyan and would not lead to politicisation. IPPR proposes something similar, again clear that it does not lead to politicisation. If you talk to the leaders of the civil service in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where they have moved in the direction, they will be very clear that it does not lead to politicisation. In Australia, they were very clear that, actually, having extremely political offices there has enhanced the impartiality of the civil service. I do not think we could contemplate going down that path but, if there was any suggestion of doing anything that imperilled having a properly politically impartial Civil Service, then we would not want to go anywhere near it.

Q1179 Mr Reed: May I ask, in conclusion, you sounded like you were somewhat taking on trust what the IPPR and others have said with you? I am sure before making a proposal you would want to reassure yourself that there are no conflicts with NorthcoteTrevelyan. If I could ask, in conclusion, what questions will you ask to provide that reassurance?

Mr Maude: We would want to test the proposition very carefully. What are the questions? The questions are absolutely: does this, at the end of it, feel like a Civil Service where appointments are made other than on the basis of merit and political impartiality? That is what is at the core of NorthcoteTrevelyan.

Q1180 Kelvin Hopkins: I am very pleased that you seem to have accepted the wisdom of NorthcoteTrevelyan in a way that was not quite the tone of what you were saying some months ago, I may say, but that is my impression and I am pleased about that.

Mr Maude: I do not think I have ever questioned that seriously.

Kelvin Hopkins: I think you were leaning towards politicisation of some senior civil servants.

Mr Maude: No, never. I have always said, when we have canvassed the possibility of giving Ministers a choice of candidate for permanent secretary, we have always been at pains to stress that that would only be after the same process has been gone through as is the case at present, where all that is presented to the Minister would be candidates who have been deemed to be appointable on merit, competent to do the job and political impartial. There would not have been a danger of politicisation, from that point of view.

Q1181 Kelvin Hopkins: Going back, when I was a student in the 1960s, the plum job was getting into the administrative parts of the Civil Service, and only the best minds got in there: rigorous training, rigorous selection exams and whatever; they were the best minds. It was very elitist, but I accepted that and I think that was the right way forward. Do you think the fact that we have moved away from that rather-we do not have that kind of approach quite anymore-has been a problem for the Civil Service?

Mr Maude: It still is very attractive. I seem to have in my mind that I have somewhere-but I cannot find them-the numbers of people applying for the Fast Stream graduate entry for the Civil Service. I seem to think it is either 70 or 700 applicants for every place, but it is big. It is hugely in demand.

Q1182 Kelvin Hopkins: Within that, the range of views? They are not politicised in a sense, but I was told in confidence some 30 years ago that there are those who read The Guardian and those who read the Telegraph amongst civil servants. There are those who read the New Statesman and those who read The Spectator. There is a range of views.

Mr Maude: There may be some who read them all.

Kelvin Hopkins: Indeed, yes. I certainly read the Telegraph a lot. That kind of intellectual drive and intellectual capability strike me as being absolutely vital in a bureaucracy. As I say, I spent 23 years working in bureaucracies, and it is the bright ones who got it right.

Mr Maude: I completely agree with that. One of the things I concluded is that we should stop telling ourselves that the age of the generalist has gone. One of the Fulton things was that we should not have generalists; everyone should be a specialist and an expert. Actually, you need both. Any organisation needs people who are generalists, and one of the maligned effects of our constantly saying we should not have generalists is to deny to very good, able generalists, who bring a huge amount-and for exactly the reasons you have set out-to this organisation, we deny them the ability to say, "I don’t know how to do this." Actually, what does this brilliant generalist do? They know what they can do and they know what they cannot do. They are very good at mobilising skills and knowledge from somewhere else to complement what they do not have.

By saying we do not have generalists anymore, which has been a mantra-it only occurred to me that actually every iteration of Civil Service reform and change has said, "We should not have generalists"-the result has been-not that we do not have generalists; we do and have some very good ones-to make it much more difficult for them to be effective, because they all feel they are obliged to be a specialist and an expert. Not everybody either needs to be or should be.

Q1183 Kelvin Hopkins: I agree absolutely. You can buy in experts. You can get your scientists and your lawyers as advisers at a senior level, but having people who have an understanding of geography, history, philosophy and economics as well is very important.

Mr Maude: You also need to have, within the administrative Civil Service, people who do become real experts and have deep specialist knowledge. You need the combination of them. They may then go on to fulfil a more generalist role at a very senior level, but we should not assume that people are not of high value unless they have deep, specialist, expert knowledge. That is one of the very seductive blind alleys down which we have been drawn; I fell victim to it myself. One of the things we can do for the Civil Service is to say not that we want everybody to be an amateur, because that is never what it has been about, but there is a real and vital role for the highly intelligent, wellinformed generalist, who brings knifesharp analytical skills, the ability to understand data, to use data, to bring in expertise to exploit it, to synthesise and to bring creative ideageneration. Those are absolutely invaluable skills. At its best, we still have those, but we do not celebrate that enough.

Q1184 Kelvin Hopkins: Just one more question. Those generalists can develop real abilities in things like economics. Economics is intrinsically not quite as demanding as mathematic; I have done both, so I know. Over time, and particularly with training, they can become experts, particularly in economics and to an extent in some scientific areas as well. I agree with you. My question is: are we trying to change something that worked 40 years ago quite well, and we have been running around in circles trying to reform ever since when we actually had something that worked quite well?

Mr Maude: There is a lot in that. Some of the things have been lost that we need to find. Some of it is that sense of a much more unified Civil Service. It has become much more splintered; we have some ways of starting to address that, which are beginning to work, but there is a lot more to do.

Q1185 Chair: In all this discussion about support for Ministers, on this question of generalists, it is about having more people around the Minister who the Minister can directly relate to, rather than having to directly relate to someone who is an expert in something. Have I got that right? Having generalists around the Minister would make the Minister feel more comfortable and able to relate to the people around him.

Mr Maude: Not necessarily. Some of the people you might want to bring in might well be specialists. There are plenty of Departments around Whitehall where specialist policy advisors have been brought in. Not special advisers; not people who are politically free, but people who are subject to the Civil Service code and are proper civil servants, but who are on shortterm appointments as specialist advisors. That can be very valuable. That has been able to be done for quite some time but I do not think it has been done all that much.

Q1186 Chair: We do need to understand better how hard and lonely it feels for a Minister to be surrounded by very few people, apart from his special advisors, who he has directly appointed. That must feel disempowering for a Minister.

Mr Maude: All the evidence is that, by comparison with other similar systems to ours-we have brilliant private officers, who do a great job, and some superb people. However, in terms of the quantity of resource and the way in which they are appointed, British Ministers are underresourced compared to their comparators.

Q1187 Chair: What do you understand by the IPPR distinction between politicisation and personalisation?

Mr Maude: It is a question of who they are accountable to.

Q1188 Chair: Your speech was very clear: it is the person they are accountable to and appointed by. However, you maintain that is not a big change and does not transgress the Northcote-Trevelyan principles.

Mr Maude: No, it absolutely does not. The reality is that it has always been the case that if a private secretary or office is not working, Ministers have always been able to call for an individual to be replaced.

Q1189 Chair: If a Minister spends more and more time with people he has personally appointed and less and less time with the fulltime officials-because if there are more people in the Department who he has appointed, it is inevitable those are the people he is going to be interfacing more with-how do you prevent a ‘them and us’ attitude developing between those who are appointed personally by the Minister and those who are not?

Mr Maude: You have to guard against it. It is a good question.

Q1190 Chair: How do you guard against it?

Mr Maude: In Australia what they have done is to establish a rule. In Australia it is much more acute, because Ministers operate from the parliament building, so they very rarely-literally only a couple of times a year-visit their Department.

Chair: Mr Boles put himself in that category.

Mr Maude: I could not possibly comment. They are physically remote and have offices that are entirely composed of people who are politically unrestricted. They may be permanent civil servants, but they are politically unrestricted while they are there. What they have introduced there, which I think is a very sensible thing, is an obligation that advice that comes from the Department, from the mainstream permanent civil servants, must be presented to the Minister. It can be presented with a covering note, but it must be presented to the Minister. I would expect, if we were to go down this path, there to be just the same amount of interaction of civil servants coming into meetings on a very continuous basis; it could be intermediated.

Q1191 Chair: What we do not want is a picket fence of appointees around the Minister, because in the end it is the full time and permanent civil servants upon whom the Minister relies for the implementation, so it is his relationship with them that matters as much as anything else.

Mr Maude: I totally agree with that. One of the learnings from New Zealand was when they introduced their system of chief executives of departments being appointed with a contract-which was quite explicit and detailed about what was to be delivered-they started with a view that there was policy, which the Minister does, and implementation that the chief executive does. We know from all experience-and they now know this-the boundary between the two is never as simple as that. If you are going to devise policy in a way that is capable of being implemented effectively you have to have constant iteration with those who are going to be responsible for delivery and iteration. If we were to go down this path, we would need to be at very considerable pains to ensure that you do not end up separate from the Department itself.

Q1192 Chair: Moving on to the question of accountability-we will be as quick as we can, but you seem to enjoy your answers. They are being very useful, so if we can keep you longer I would be very grateful. The IPPR Report is as much about accountability as anything else, is it not? What do you want a senior civil servant or an executive officer in the Civil Service or an agency to feel when he or she is told by the Minister, "You are accountable"? What is the feeling we want that official to have?

Mr Maude: The same feeling I have when I appear at the despatch box in the House of Commons of being held to account. "Have I done what I said I was going to do? Can I justify what I have decided to do?"

Q1193 Chair: It should be an empowering feeling, should it not?

Mr Maude: Or the same feeling I have now, at this very moment.

Chair: It is about feeling that you are accountable and therefore responsible, and therefore empowered to get an outcome.

Mr Maude: Yes, absolutely. It is about being really clear of what is the output or outcome you are expected to deliver, and being very clear about the freedom and power you have to do it. It is the space within which you can make decisions and put your energy, intelligence, knowledge and skills to work to deliver that output.

Q1194 Chair: To what extent is that based on a positive relationship between the Minister and the official?

Mr Maude: It is based on a professional, respectful relationship between the two.

Q1195 Chair: A trusting relationship?

Mr Maude: Yes.

Chair: If the Minister takes on more power to hire and fire, and to scold and performance manage, to instruct-

Mr Maude: You are wrapping a whole lot of different things into one sentence there.

Chair: I am, because I am asking to what extent we are getting trapped into a negative kind of accountability, which actually drives out trust, because you are going to measure that person’s performance, publish their performance criteria, hold them accountable and then fire them if they do not perform.

Mr Maude: What is your point?

Q1196 Chair: One environment sounds quite a nice and very motivated place to work. The other sounds the sort of place where officials do not want to be accountable or to take responsibility. They would rather push their difficulties onto someone else, so when the hiring and firing gun comes around it is not pointed at them. We do recognise that that is happening to an extent in the public service. The business of naming and shaming: how positive is that for motivation of public service?

Mr Maude: I am sorry; I do not know what you are talking about.

Q1197 Chair: We all know that when officials’ names finish up in the public domain and they are scolded and held accountable in the negative sense for what has gone wrong, that is quite a bad feeling to have if you think that can happen to you in the public service, is it not?

Mr Maude: It is not a very agreeable feeling anywhere.

Q1198 Chair: No. What kind of accountability are you trying to achieve?

Mr Maude: The accountability where people know what is expected of them, are judged on whether they have done it and how well they have done it. It seems really simply to me.

Chair: You do not see a conflict between these two types of accountability.

Mr Maude: There is only one kind of accountability I am interested in, which is people knowing what is expected of them and then being judged on how well they have done it.

Q1199 Chair: How do you make people responsible for obtaining positive outcomes and motivated to achieve positive outcomes?

Mr Maude: That is what performance management is all about; it is about recognising exceptional performance and celebrating it. Where there is underperformance, it is about addressing it.

Q1200 Chair: Do you think exposing senior responsible owners of longterm projects to Select Committees is going to increase their motivation? How is that going to increase their motivation-apart from in the negative sense?

Mr Maude: It is a good question. There have been recommendations made, I think by your own Committee but certainly other Committees, that more senior civil servants should be able to be held accountable directly by Select Committees. My starting point is that the principal accountability for a Department should be the Minister being held accountable in Select Committees and on the floor of Parliament. That has been the longstanding approach going back a long time; I think you probably know better than I do exactly how long. You would need to have a pressing case for extending it. It is worth looking at whether, for senior responsible owners of big projects, that is an exception or an extension.

Q1201 Chair: In the same way as accounting officers?

Mr Maude: Yes.

Q1202 Chair: For that kind of accountability to work, you would have to empower the SRO to tell the truth, even if that is not the line to take.

Mr Maude: Yes, I think that is absolutely right. I hope they would tell the truth anyway, but-

Chair: They sometimes withhold the truth.

Mr Maude: Absolutely. It would put a very desirable onus on those who are responsible for starting a project or a programme to be really clear about what is expected. Lord Browne’s recent report highlighted correctly that too often Government drifts into a project without a really rigorous initiation process. In a business you would have a big moment before you pressed the button to start a project, and we are not so good at that. Being much clearer at an early stage about what is expected and what the programme is would be a very good discipline on Government as a whole. If you were in a position where SROs were able to be held to account by Select Committees, SROs would then be properly encouraged and empowered to say, "If I am going to be held accountable in public by Select Committees, I need to have much greater clarity about what is expected, proper implementation planning and so on." I can see how it would lead to the benign upside in terms of accountability.

Chair: The empowering of responsibility.

Mr Maude: Yes, absolutely. I think that is very good insight.

Q1203 Chair: Thank you very much. Moving on briefly to the idea in the IPPR report for the Head of the Civil Service: the Government split the Cabinet Secretary from the Head of the Civil Service, and we asked in our inquiry report on the leadership of the Civil Service how this was going to be assessed. We asked for an urgent assessment; we were told it was going to take a year. Here we are a year on: are you in a position to give an assessment?

Mr Maude: I cannot remember when your report was, but I do not think it was-

Chair: More than a year ago. 18 months ago, I am told-time flies.

Mr Maude: Absolutely. It is a continuing process, but I do not think anyone has any doubt at all that it was right to decide to divide-

Chair: The IPPR recommendation says-and it is suggested in your speech as well-that the Head of the Civil Service should be the Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office.

Mr Maude: No, I did not say that.

Chair: You have not said that, I beg your pardon-but the IPPR report said that.

Mr Maude: I do not think they said that as such.

Chair: There was discussion about a fulltime Head of the Civil Service.

Mr Maude: Yes, and as far as I am aware there has only been one period where there was a full-time dedicated Head of the Civil Service. It is one of things that came out of the Fulton Commission and Report, and it lasted for about 10 years or so. There have been all sorts of different configurations: it has been combined with head of the Treasury, and then was separate for a short period, then combined with the Cabinet Secretary. This has been done in all sorts of different ways over the decades.

Q1204 Chair: Lord Butler was very clear in his evidence to us about this subject: that the Cabinet Secretary would always be top dog, to put it in that rather emotive way. Would the Head of the Civil Service report to the Cabinet Secretary under this arrangement?

Mr Maude: What arrangement?

Chair: The arrangement proposed by IPPR for a fulltime Head of the Civil Service.

Mr Maude: I do not know. I have not looked at that very carefully.

Q1205 Chair: Is there not a need for one individual to have overall responsibility for the Civil Service?

Mr Maude: You can make that case. As I say, there is no hard and fast way of doing this. It has been done in loads of different way. It is very rare actually; the aberration has been for the last 30 years or so, when there was a single combined Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service.

Chair: If you are proposing a unified Civil Service-and I fully accept that is not an announcement you have made, it is a musing of an idea, but if there was to be-

Mr Maude: We have absolutely said we want it to be more unified than it is.

Q1206 Chair: But if there is going to be a more unified structure, should all the Departments not report to a single individual?

Mr Maude: You can make that case; I think that is broadly what the IPPR say. You can do this a lot of different ways. There never has been any magic one way of doing it.

Q1207 Mr Reed: Minister, what discussions have you had with Lord Browne about his call for a parliamentary commission on the Civil Service?

Mr Maude: Only very briefly, where he reiterated what I think he said separately, that if there were to be any study done of that nature, it absolutely must not be allowed to get in the way of implementing the changes that are urgently needed, about which everyone, as far as I can see, agrees. That is the conversation I have had with him.

Q1208 Mr Reed: I understand you rejected that call for an inquiry of that kind?

Mr Maude: No.

Mr Reed: You have not.

Mr Maude: No.

Q1209 Mr Reed: Okay. What concerns would be in your mind about an inquiry of that kind?

Mr Maude: Exactly what I just said: if you institute a major inquiry, whether that leads to it being a reason to slow down agreed change. One of the things Peter Riddell said bore that out, where he explicitly raised the danger of it being used to undermine existing reform efforts. He said it in his blog, "These are proper issues for an inquiry, running alongside but in no way undermining existing reform efforts." Then he said, "The doubters about an inquiry are right to be worried about its potential distracting impact and about the risks of weakening the current reform drive." That is the concern. I certainly have not ruled it out; it would not be for me to rule it out anyway. However, what I have said is that I would need to be convinced it did not have that effect of, as it were, displacing the current reform efforts, which are urgently needed and very broadly agreed.

Q1210 Mr Reed: Thank you. Since you have mentioned him, have you had any conversations with Peter Riddell or the Institute for Government about such an inquiry might be put together?

Mr Maude: Not that I can recollect. I do not think I’ve talked to Peter Riddell for a few weeks now.

Q1211 Mr Reed: What case do you see for a commission or inquiry being shaped in such a way that it could help speed up the implementation of law reforms by helping, for instance, to identify blockages?

Mr Maude: That would be very welcome.

Mr Reed: You do not rule it out.

Mr Maude: No I do not, but I would need some convincing that that could be its effect.

Q1212 Mr Reed: Right, okay. The proposals that you and the IPPR are making have some constitutional effect. I guess it is a contested view as to the degree of significance of its effect on the constitution, but given that, what role do you think Parliament should have in scrutinising your proposals?

Mr Maude: It is possible to get a bit overexcited about the constitutional effects of anything in the IPPR Report. They are very modest, incremental proposals they are making. It is the same with the IfG, which very much go with the grain of the current settlement. Of course, Parliament is at liberty to debate what it chooses to, and if Parliament chose to have a debate about these arrangements then I would be very happy to take part in it.

Q1213 Mr Reed: Given that there is a view in some quarters that the changes may be more profound on the Northcote-Trevelyan settlement, would you wish to invite Parliament to take a clearer view in scrutinising the proposals?

Mr Maude: If we do make any proposals for further changes, I would announce them to Parliament in the usual way. It would really be for Parliament to decide how it wanted to scrutinise them.

Q1214 Mr Reed: I think you have already said this, but I cannot quite remember: you do not rule out some kind of joint commission?

Mr Maude: No. There would be two questions in my mind. We have already identified a very broad degree of consensus, both within the Civil Service and outside in the political arena, that there are some very specific changes that are needed, which urgently need to be implemented. I would need some persuading that there is value in having a look at the whole of the plant, as it were. The second concern would be exactly the Peter Riddell point about whether it distracts attention away from getting the stuff that we have identified done, which is, in all conscience, difficult enough already.

Q1215 Chair: Minister, I think you said to Policy Exchange in the Q&A that you did not anticipate requiring any change to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act in any way. You think your changes are all in conformity with the existing legislation.

Mr Maude: The only context in which that has ever arisen was if we concluded that the arrangements the Civil Service Commission put in place for appointing Permanent Secretaries were not working in the way that was envisaged-and the Civil Service Commission absolutely held fast to its current position-then the only way you could possibly change that would be by changing the primary legislation. That is not something that is keeping me awake at night.

Q1216 Chair: That Act is called the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, and it is regarded as cementing the independence of the Civil Service in place. That would be quite a big change.

Mr Maude: I was the opposition spokesman when that part of the Bill was going through.

Chair: I confess I have not read all your speeches; perhaps I should.

Mr Maude: I do not particularly recommend them. It is of significance that the Minister who introduced the Bill was Jack Straw and the Opposition spokesman on that part of it was myself. We both believed there was nothing in that Act that prevented Ministers from having a choice of candidates for Permanent Secretary. Indeed, Jack has often said he did exactly that when he was a Cabinet Minister.

Q1217 Chair: The distinction is in the margins, and we will look carefully at that. Are you concerned at all there have been a number of iterations of reform, some of which you have referred to, that do not seem to stick? The waters of the Civil Service close over the stone as it tumbles into the pond and calm is restored. Would some kind of crossparty body sticking its stamp of approval on a reform programme not give your reform programme more permanence? When I look at the achievements of the Efficiency and Reform Group, they depend upon outstanding individuals, one or two of which you have personally appointed, which rather strengthens your case. However, will the changes that they are implementing be sustained after they have gone unless there is a more concerted crossparty determination to implement this kind of reform?

Mr Maude: The difference this time is that the Civil Service is shrinking in size and continuing to do so. The demands made on it are greater, and there is a much greater acceptance within the Civil Service itself that change has to be made to stick this time.

Q1218 Chair: How will you make sure your reforms stick?

Mr Maude: All organisations when they change have a tendency to default back to the preexisting comfort zone.

Chair: One of the great strengths of our Civil Service.

Mr Maude: Possibly, but actually it is not just the Civil Service. All organisations, including private sector organisations, when the pressure is removed will always tend to default back, and it requires constant vigilance to make sure they do not.

Q1219 Kelvin Hopkins: You have talked as though reducing the size of the Civil Service is a good thing, but at the same time you have said often support for Ministers is not sufficient. At a level, at this highest level, maybe there are not enough civil servants and staff to give you the advice you need. I have certainly heard it from civil servants that with the cutting away of staff they have often found themselves overloaded, for example, five people being replaced by three. There is too much work for three people; it should be done by five.

Mr Maude: Yes, which is one of the reasons why we made a point in the Civil Service Reform Plan of identifying a need for a good procedure in all Departments to ensure that administrative resources are properly aligned with ministerial priorities. This has not always been the case and you will find lots of Ministers in the last Government complaining about that, even in times of relative plenty when there were many more civil servants. I have it in my mind, I was told that there are 18,000 policyoriented civil servants in Whitehall-or Whitehall taken broadly-even after the reductions, so there should be enough to go round.

Chair: It is the first thing Sir Humphrey always cuts, is it not? I am afraid the cuts will have to fall on your private office. Minister, you have been extremely helpful and we have learned a good deal more from you today, and we are very grateful for that.

Prepared 1st July 2013