Select Committee Chairs call for a Commission on Civil Service

12 December 2013

Commission should be established as a matter of urgency and report before the end of this Parliament.

In a report published today, Thursday 12 December 2013, ahead of its launch on the floor of the House of Commons, the Liaison Committee calls on Government to establish a Parliamentary Commission into the Civil Service.

The Committee, which is made up of Chairs of all the select committees charged with holding Governmental departments to account, today publishes its conclusions on the capacity of the Civil Service to manage contracts with the private sector, based on evidence provided by the Prime Minister in September and evidence collected by select committees in a range of inquiries from the roll-out of Universal Credit to the provision of rural broadband.

The Committee has concluded:

  • There is significant evidence that the Civil Service is not equipped to support consistent contract management, and tends to be driven by short-term pressures, rather than long-term value for money for the taxpayer. 
  • It is unconvinced that the Government’s Civil Service Reform Plan for Whitehall is based on a strategic consideration of the future of the Civil Service.

To provide such a strategic consideration, the Committee has recommended the establishment of a Parliamentary Commission on the Civil Service, as recommended by the Public Administration Select Committee in September. The Committee has called for such a commission to be established as a matter of urgency, and to report before the end of the Parliament.

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Liaison Committee, said:

"Public service contracts with the private sector need to deliver good quality services and value-for-money for the taxpayer. Select Committees scrutinising the work of departments across Government have found that, on too many occasions, the Civil Service has failed to design effective contracts or to monitor contracts adequately. This report has collated this evidence and demonstrated that there are systemic failings in Civil Service contract management. We have raised specific concerns about the paucity of commercial skills, and officials feeling unable to speak truth to power.

The Liaison Committee therefore supports the establishment of a Parliamentary Commission on the Civil Service to examine the capacity, skills and operation of Government departments. The contracts issue demonstrates how significantly the role of the Civil Service has changed since the Northcote-Trevelyan Report set out the principles on which it should operate. We believe that a coherent analysis of the state of the Civil Service, and the requirements placed upon it, would help to improve governance across Whitehall, and help to eliminate the contract-management failures seen in recent years."

Further information

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