PASC No. 2

Session 2003-04

Press Notice No.02


PASC DRAFT BILL TO STRENGTHEN PARLIAMENT’S OVERSIGHT OF THE CIVIL SERVICE

Historic Move as Commons Select Committee publishes its own legislation

PASC-the Public Administration Select Committee-today publishes a draft Bill which would enable Parliament to underpin the principles of a neutral civil service. New statutory codes for civil servants and special advisers and stronger powers for the Civil Service Commission watchdog body are among  the measures contained in the 10-clause draft.

The draft Bill, included in a Committee Report (HC 128-I), would make the Civil Service Commission into a statutory body and require it to report annually to Parliament. For the first time, the Commission will be able to initiate its own inquiries into how the civil service and special advisers’ codes are working.

The Bill would also provide for Parliament to vote on the number of special advisers and make it clear in law that, except for two advisers in No 10 Downing Street, they would not be able to exercise any management functions or authorise expenditure.

This is believed to be the first time that a Parliamentary Select Committee has developed and published its own Bill. The Government has pledged to produce its own version, and the Committee recommends that it should appear before the end of the current Session. 

The Report says that “legislation is long overdue”, despite “regular promises” from the Government that it would produce its own Bill. The Committee says that the draft “provides a clear framework which would enable Parliament to ensure that public service principles are upheld and that civil servants and others are carrying out their jobs with propriety”. But it stresses that the Bill is “not intended to shield civil servants from change or make them a protected species. Neither would it affect the right of ministers to run their departments, make policy or deliver programmes”.

Other measures in the Bill include clauses which would clarify the position on the employment of people of a variety of nationalities in civil service posts.

A civil service act was first recommended in the 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan Report, which laid the foundations for a professional and politically neutral civil service. The Committee says that “in an era of rapid, fundamental and often controversial change in Whitehall and beyond, there is better reason than ever for the principles first laid down by Northcote and Trevelyan to be secured, as they intended, by Parliament”.

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For further information please telephone Philip Aylett, Clerk of the Committee on 020 7219 3498

Tony Wright may be contacted for press inquiries on 020 7219 5583

Publications and evidence, including uncorrected evidence, is also available on the Internet at www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/public_administration_select_committee.cfm 

For information regarding forthcoming meetings including venues and times please call the House of Commons Committee Information Line on 020 7219 2033 (updated daily).