Skip to main content

Head of the Civil Service

Volume 534: debated on Wednesday 2 November 2011

The roles of Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service are very different and were indeed separate roles until 1981. Following the announcement of the retirement of Sir Gus O’Donnell, the role of head of the civil service will, once again, be separated from the Cabinet Secretary role. The two individual roles will be more focused, and people can be appointed to each on the basis of the skills match to each role. An internal competition is under way to recruit the post holder from among existing permanent secretaries.

Change is the watchword of the Prime Minister and change in government is a vital ingredient of the Government’s reform programme. How will the head of the civil service be able to lead and implement change if he does not have equal authority and equal access to the centre of government as he does now?

He or she will have equal access and will exercise a decisive role in leading the reform of the civil service so that we can create a genuinely modern, progressive civil service that a modern Britain requires.

Is the Minister satisfied that with the split of the new roles, the various questions of probity, propriety and procedure that were aired in the O’Donnell report on the Werritty affair will be clearly brought to a known figure in the future, or will there be confusion?

We will make sure that those issues are properly scrutinised, as they were on that occasion, and that there are proper arrangements to ensure that that is the case.