Press Notice 10, Session 2007-08

17 December 2007


In a short report published today, Monday 17 December 2007, the Commons Public Administration Committee calls again for Government’s powers to reorganise the civil service to be subject to more effective Parliamentary scrutiny and control.

The Committee rejects the Government’s claim that the current arrangements allow Parliament to hold Government to account. The Committee contrasts the Government’s response to its original report on this subject with the Government’s promise in the “Governance of Britain” green paper to “seek to surrender or limit powers which it considers should not, in a modern democracy, be exercised exclusively by the Executive”, including the power to organise the civil service.

The Committee says that along with expected provisions to put the civil service on a statutory footing in the forthcoming constitutional reform bill, there should also be measures to allow Parliament effective scrutiny of changes to the machinery of Government

Tony Wright, Chairman of the Committee said, “There is an inconsistency here between what the Government has laid out as its vision for enhanced accountability to Parliament and people, and its response to a practical suggestion that we made in the wake of the controversial reorganisation of the Home Office earlier this year. The way the departments of state are structured and re-structured can have direct consequences for public service users and can cost a lot of money. It does not seem too much to ask that there should be some public analysis of the consequences before major change is allowed to happen.

“It is not appropriate that Prime Ministers should be able to alter the structure of the civil service departments on a whim, and we do not understand why they should ever need to.”


The Committee’s June 2007 report on machinery of government changes is available online at:

The Government’s response (November 2007) is available online at:

Committee Membership: Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Paul Rowen (Lib Dem) (Rochdale), Charles Walker (Con) (Broxbourne), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

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