An in-depth consideration of the relationship between Ministers and civil servants is vital as Whitehall faces the challenges of leaving the EU – says the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in its report.
The Civil Service now faces new challenges and a host of new tasks due to the decision to leave the EU. These include negotiations of the withdrawal agreement with the EU and taking back responsibility for policy and regulation in a wide range of areas such as agriculture and financial services.
These challenges make it all the more important that the Civil Service is clear about its mission and role, and that it understands the principles upon which it is based and the institutional framework within which it operates. The Committee sees it as vital that this work includes an in-depth consideration of the long-time unaddressed relationship between Ministers and officials, a subject that has formed the cornerstone of PACAC's inquiry.
It is widely agreed that meaningful learning and change must be sustained in the Civil Service. So the Committee were surprised to hear from serving Permanent Secretaries that there does not seem to have been any discussion about the Civil Service Leadership Academy at Cabinet level. This despite Lord Kerslake's earlier recommendations calling for leadership on reform efforts from the Head of the Civil Service, to be backed up by support from the Government – "Prime Minister downwards".
Chair of PACAC, Bernard Jenkin MP, says:
"We believe that this is the first time that there has been Select Committee consideration of the relationship between Ministers and officials with the active support of government and the civil service. When this Committee is reformed after the election, we do hope that it will continue this work, working in cooperation with Government, and take forward our initial findings in this area. We also need to keep asking the question of who at the top needs to be driving the reform agenda."
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