Lords debates future of civil service

17 January 2014

Members of the House of Lords, including former heads of the civil service, a former head of the diplomatic service, former permanent secretaries and former secretaries of state, debated the future of the civil service on Thursday 16 January

The impartiality and continuity of the civil service was highlighted. Many former civil servants and members who have worked with the civil service praised its expertise and professionalism, and the diversity it has achieved in its work force. Members also warned it needed to adapt to the needs of the times and continue to recruit the best people.

Concern was raised about ministerial criticism of the civil service, an increase in political special advisers and political input into the selection of senior civil servants - arguing they may compromise the ability of civil servants to 'speak truth to power'.

Members pressed the government about setting up a parliamentary commission on the furutre of the civil service. Responding on behalf of the government, Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat) said that the governement was not opposed to parliamentary inquiries but also not persuaded by the case for a commission (as proposed by House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee).

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