Magazine article Public Finance

Cabinet Secretary Sees Place for a Civil Service Bill

Magazine article Public Finance

Cabinet Secretary Sees Place for a Civil Service Bill

Article excerpt

Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has signalled his cautious support for legislation to enshrine civil service independence - as long as it does not constrain Whitehall's freedom for manoeuvre in the future.

The head of the home civil service, who has in the past expressed his ambivalence about any such Bill, said he was in favour of the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill, as long as it can be very principles- and valuesfocused'.

But O'Donnell, giving evidence to the public administration select committee on April 29, rejected suggestions that the Bill should define the role of special advisers and seek to limit their number to the 70 or so currently employed. He also said there was no need for the legislation to include ministers' obligations towards mandarins, as set out in the ministerial code.

O'Donnell argued that the threat of an increasingly politicised civil service was overstated. He claimed that having special advisers to provide political advice to departmental ministers could, in fact, help preserve officials' neutrality. …

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