Magazine article Public Finance

Bill Will Enshrine Civil Service Values in Law

Magazine article Public Finance

Bill Will Enshrine Civil Service Values in Law

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has retained plans to put the civil service on a statutory footing and a series of public service reforms in his slimmed-down Queen's Speech - but housing measures have been dropped.

The speech was pitched as one to aid the economy, centred on a new Banking Bill. The widely trailed Welfare Reform Bill, with a sharp tightening of the benefits regime, was the other flagship measure.

But long-awaited moves to enshrine in law the traditional values of the civil service - such as impartiality and objectivity will now be brought before Parliament in a Constitutional Renewal Bill. A draft Civil Service Bill published in 2004 never made it to the statute books.

The government has yet to respond to a joint parliamentary committee report on the draft legislation, although the Bill is expected to include a special advisers' code to prevent them from authorising expenditure or telling civil servants what to do.

Tony Wright, chair of the public administration select committee, which has been pressing for the legislation, told Public Finance: 'It's essential we get progress on the civil service aspects of this as quickly as possible. There is widespread consensus on this. It is unfinished constitutional business - the prevarication has gone on long enough.'

The Civil Service Commissioners also urged the government 'to find parliamentary time' to ensure the Bill is debated.

But Guy Lodge, senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank, warned of a danger that putting the civil service 'in its current format' into statute would 'make it more difficult to deliver the fundamental reform the civil service needs'. …

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