Select Committee on the Constitution
Permanent secretaries: their appointment and removal

17th Report of Session 2022-23 - published 20 October 2023 - HL Paper 258



Chapter 1: Introduction

Constitutional position and role of the civil service

Box 1: Key principles of the Armstrong memorandum

The Northcote–Trevelyan report

Roles of permanent secretaries and other senior civil servants

Permanent secretaries

Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service

Other roles

Chapter 2: Appointment process

Underlying principles of appointments system

Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010

Civil Service Commission

Recruitment Principles

Box 2: The Recruitment Principles: the role of the Civil Service Commission in senior appointments

Box 3: The Recruitment Principles: the involvement of ministers

Senior Appointments Protocol

Changes to the current system?

Ministerial involvement

Defining merit

Appointment of the Cabinet Secretary

Involvement of special advisers

External and internal appointments

Chapter 3: Departures

Dismissal on performance or misconduct grounds

Departures on other grounds

Fixed five-year tenure

Table 1: Figures on the average tenure of permanent secretaries since 2010

Table 2: Average years in role for permanent secretaries since June 2019

Poor relationship between a permanent secretary and secretary of state

Political or ideological grounds

Chapter 4: Politicisation in appointments and departures

Politicisation or personalisation?

Is broad political alignment necessary or desirable?

Risks to the accounting officer role

Box 4: The standards expected for projects and proposals

Chapter 5: Permanent secretaries in devolved administrations

Appointment of permanent secretaries in Scotland and Wales

Position of permanent secretaries in devolved nations

Boundary between devolved competence and reserved matters

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Appendix 1: List of Members and declarations of interest

Appendix 2: List of witnesses

Appendix 3: Call for evidence

Evidence is published online at and available for inspection at the Parliamentary Archives (020 7219 3074).

Q in footnotes refers to a question in oral evidence.

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