Ben Bradshaw

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Cabinet Office Questions

At yesterday’s Cabinet Office Questions, I asked the Minister about the reform of the appointment of permanent secretaries in Government Departments, in light of recent reports from the Institute of Government and the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What plans he has to reform the procedure for the appointment of permanent secretaries of Government Departments. [160380]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): The Government wish to strengthen the role of Ministers in permanent secretary appointments to reflect Ministers’ accountability to Parliament for the performance of their Departments. We believe it sensible to allow a choice of candidates who are judged by the Civil Service Commission to be above the line and appointable. The Civil Service Commission’s recent guidance is capable of strengthening the Minister’s role. We will review how it works before deciding whether to seek further changes.

Mr Bradshaw: Does the Minister agree with the two recent excellent reports from the Institute of Government and the Institute for Public Policy Research, which say that for there to be proper accountability Secretaries of State must have a say in who runs their Department, albeit from a shortlist agreed in the normal way? Will he reassure us that, contrary to press reports, he is not caving in to the mandarins on this vital reform?

Mr Maude: I do not think that that is a phenomenon that would be recognised in Whitehall. The right hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point. The relationship between permanent secretary and Minister is very important. Ministers are accountable in this place for their Department, and it seems to us to make sense—it clearly makes sense to him, too—that a Minister should be given a choice of candidates, as long as they are deemed to be politically impartial and capable of doing the job properly.

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