Magazine article Public Finance

Cabinet Secretary Backs Civil Service Act

Magazine article Public Finance

Cabinet Secretary Backs Civil Service Act

Article excerpt

Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell this week backed calls for a civil service Act to enshrine Whitehall's independence, but warned that his legislative preferences could be thwarted by political priorities.

Appearing before the Commons' public administration select committee on October 11, his first parliamentary appearance since becoming head of the civil service in September, O'Donnell clarified his views on such a law.

O'Donnell said: 'Personally, I'd be in favour of anything that entrenches traditional values of honesty and integrity.'

But he added: 'We would need to ensure that there is sufficient flexibility in [the law] to manage it' and warned that 'it is not a legislative priority for the government'.

'The prime minister and Cabinet decide on priorities,' he reminded the committee. This explained the lack of progress as Prime Minister Tony Blair was reluctant to legislate.

Other senior respondents who were being consulted on the matter were steadfastly against an Act, O'Donnell added.

PASC chair Tony Wright has long pushed for legislation, and in 2003 his committee took the unprecedented step of producing a draft Bill that received the support of the mandarins' trade union, the FDA. …

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