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Senior Civil Servants: Accountability

Volume 594: debated on Wednesday 25 March 2015

8. What steps he has taken to increase the accountability to Parliament and the public of senior civil servants. (908314)

The Prime Minister can now exercise choice in making permanent secretary appointments. We have introduced fixed tenure for permanent secretaries. We publish their performance objectives, as well as improved management information, to allow them to be held to account. We have revised the Osmotherly rules to ensure that senior responsible owners are directly accountable to Parliament for project implementation and to allow former accounting officers to be called to Select Committees.

Will the Paymaster General update the House on the role that Ministers might have in the performance review of permanent secretaries?

We have now instituted a formal process where formal input must be provided by Ministers to the Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service on the performance of their permanent secretaries. That input has to be taken into account as part of the end of year appraisal undertaken by the head of the civil service.

Order. There are so many noisy private conversations taking place it is quite difficult to hear the Minister’s answer. Let us have a bit of order for the Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee of the House of Commons.

At what may well be my right hon. Friend’s last appearance in the House of Commons at the Dispatch Box, may I remark that his five-year term as Minister for the Cabinet Office in charge of civil service policy for the Government will have truly left its mark not just on the civil service but on this House? His tenacity, commitment and sincerity are of great credit to him.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. I pay tribute to him for the way in which he and his Committee have held us to account for what we do. He has done that consistently and persistently. It has not always been comfortable, but that is what the House of Commons is for.