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Cabinet Office

Volume 742: debated on Wednesday 6 December 2023

Civil Service Staff Turnover

The following is an extract from Cabinet Office Questions on 23 November 2023.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment—and a very welcome one it is too. Does he acknowledge that although the problem of churn and generalism in the civil service has been around for 50 or 60 years, since the Fulton inquiry in the 1960s under Harold Wilson, it has become worse and worse? I thank him for the evidence that the Government have submitted to the Liaison Committee’s inquiry on strategic thinking in Government and how Select Committees can better scrutinise it, but if the Government do not have in place the experts and the people with domain knowledge, domain expertise and subject experience, there is not likely to be much good strategic thinking going on, given that Ministers often seem to know more about the subjects than the officials they are dealing with. May I invite my right hon. Friend to give us a supplementary note for the inquiry, so that we can understand their thinking on this matter more deeply?

My hon. Friend obviously knows a great deal about this as a result of his distinguished 31 years of experience in the House, but pivotal role allowances have been in place for 10 years to help us to retain certain key individuals. A number of initiatives were introduced by my distinguished predecessor Lord Maude, the former right hon. Member for Horsham, and I intend to build on those, but I am happy to engage with my hon. Friend, because this is a serious issue.

In 2022, the last year for which we have figures, there was a 12.4% turnover from the senior civil service, and resignations were at 5%. We need to look carefully at what that means across different roles, and at how we can retain the specialisms for longer periods so that key Government programmes benefit from the sort of leadership that has enduring expertise at the table.

[Official Report, 23 November 2023, Vol. 741, c. 446.]

Letter of correction from the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, the right hon. Member for Salisbury (John Glen):

An error has been identified in the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Sir Bernard Jenkin).

The correct reply should have been:

… In 2022, the last year for which we have figures, there was a 12.4% turnover from the senior civil service, and resignations were at 4.9%. We need to look carefully at what that means across different roles, and at how we can retain the specialisms for longer periods so that key Government programmes benefit from the sort of leadership that has enduring expertise at the table.