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Cross-Government Departmental Resourcing

Volume 614: debated on Wednesday 7 September 2016

5. If he will make an assessment of the effect on cross-Government resourcing of Departments of recent machinery of government changes. (906124)

All Departments are currently reviewing their own structures and resources to ensure that we get the best deal for the whole of Britain. The Cabinet Office is helping to co-ordinate that effort.

The shake-up of Whitehall comes as insiders fear that Whitehall may simply be unable to face up to the scale of the Brexit negotiations if resources stay as they are. With the negotiations looming, rather than laying off civil servants and slashing budgets, is it not now time that our civil service was properly resourced and able to fight for the best deal for Britain?

I reject the hon. Lady’s assertions. The civil service is one of the finest in the world. It has already risen to the challenge of the immediate opportunities that, with Brexit, face us as a country. That is why I am delighted that we have been able to resource the two new Departments so successfully, and their Secretaries of State are very content with the support they are receiving.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary on their appointments, and say how much we on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee look forward to working with them? As well as focusing on resourcing and machinery, our inquiry into the civil service will focus on civil service leadership. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to develop stronger leadership in the civil service to inculcate the right values, the right attitudes, and the trust and openness on which a high-functioning organisation depends?

I, too, look forward to continuing my long-standing relationship with the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, my near constituency neighbour. I agree with him entirely on his point about senior talent. We need to get as much talent as possible into the civil service at all levels. I have recently met the senior talent team in the civil service, a very impressive outfit, who have their work cut out to make sure that we can do even better.

In the context of the recent machinery of government changes, when will we know—or can the Minister tell us now—who will have responsibility for cross-Government co-ordination in respect of the work of the British-Irish Council, which relates to all eight Administrations in these islands?

I retain responsibility for the constitution as a whole, as does the Cabinet Office. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman with a detailed reply so that he can have the satisfaction of that.