HL Deb 26 January 1995 vol 560 cc89-91WA
Lord Brougham and Vaux

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are yet in a position to respond to consultation on the White Paper, The Civil Service, Continuity and Change and to the report of the Treasury and Civil Service Committee on The Role of the Civil Service.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne)

The Government are publishing today a Command Paper (Cm 2748), taking forward the policies on the Civil Service set out in last July's White Paper,The Civil Service: Continuity and Change (Cm 2627). The Command Paper incorporates the Government's response to the Fifth Report of the House of Commons Treasury and Civil Service Committee, The Role of the Civil Service, HC(1993–94). It also takes account of other responses to the invitation to comment on the proposals in Continuity and Change. Comments were received from 50 individuals and organisations. Copies of the responses where confidentiality was not requested have been placed in the Library of the House.

In Continuity and Change, the Government reaffirmed their commitment to the maintenance of a permanent Civil Service, based on the values of integrity, political impartiality, objectivity, selection and promotion on merit and accountability through Ministers to Parliament. This commitment has been widely welcomed—and was equally emphasised by the Select Committee in its report. The Government also welcome the Select Committee's belief that "the commitment of the overwhelming majority of civil servants to the principle and practice of a politically impartial Civil Service is undiminished". The Command Paper announces further measures to underpin these values.

The Government have accepted the Select Committee's recommendation for a new Civil Service code to apply to all civil servants and summarising the constitutional framework within which civil servants work and the values they are expected to uphold. A draft code, suggesting the changes which the Government think necessary to the text proposed by the Select Committee, with an associated commentary, is published in the Command Paper as a basis for further consultation. The proposed code incorporates, as recommended by the Select Committee, a new independent line of appeal to the Civil Service Commissioners in cases of alleged breaches of the code or issues of conscience which cannot be resolved through internal procedures.

The Government also intend to enhance the role of the Civil Service Commissioners as guardians of the principle of selection on merit. They will be responsible for the interpretation of the principles of fair and open competition on merit for all Civil Service recruitment. The Commissioners will be responsible for approving all appointments from outside the Civil Service to the new Senior Civil Service; and the next First Civil Service Commissioner is to be given a new role in monitoring senior internal appointments. Consequently he or she will not hold the post as a serving civil servant.

The Command Paper re-emphasises the Government's commitment to maintaining the Civil Service as a good employer, ensuring equality of opportunity, maintaining a predominantly career Civil Service, and to the training and development of all staff. It also confirms the Government's intention to proceed with other approaches set out in Continuity and Change to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Civil Service, including the delegation of pay and grading below senior levels to departments, and the introduction of Efficiency Plans in place of the centrally-driven Competing for Quality programme; to establish the proposed new Senior Civil Service; to carry out senior management reviews in all departments; to introduce new pay arrangements for the Senior Civil Service, including Permanent Secretaries; and to introduce contracts for all senior civil servants.

The Government are also publishing today detailed responses to the Review of Recruitment Responsibilities and the Review of Fast Stream Training which were published in parallel with Cm 2627. Copies of the responses have been placed in the Library of the House.

The Command Paper charts a clear course for the Civil Service. The Government believe that Parliament, the public and particularly the Civil Service itself should be encouraged by the degree of agreement on the way forward, reflected in the very considerable sharing of views on key issues between the Government and the Select Committee, as well as by those who have given evidence to the Select Committee and have commented on the White Paper. There is a wide recognition of the work of the Civil Service, the values it upholds and the progress it has made in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the services it provides. This offers an excellent foundation on which to move ahead.

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