APPENDIX 5: PROPOSAL FROM LORD LESTER OF HERNE HILL
FOR A HOUSE OF LORDS AD HOC SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE CIVIL SERVICE
This proposal is for the House to create an ad
hoc Select Committee to consider Part 2 of and Schedule 3
to the Constitutional Reform (Prerogative Powers and Civil Service
etc.) Bill in the context of other current proposals to create
a statutory framework for the Civil Service and its relations
with Ministers, Special Advisers, and Parliament. The Bill was
given a Second Reading on 3 March 2006 and received widespread
support across the House.
The Bill would create the framework for the Civil Service and
It is almost thirty years since Lord Fulton's Committee
on the Civil Service published its report.
That Committee was appointed to examine the structure, recruitment
and management, including training, of the Home Civil Service,
and to make recommendations. The Fulton Report noted that the
Home Civil Service was still fundamentally the product of the
nineteenth-century philosophy of the Northcote-Trevelyan Report
of 1854. It identified respects in which the Service was inadequate
for the most efficient discharge of the present and prospective
responsibilities of government. It made a series of important
recommendations, many of which have since been implemented. However,
the Fulton Committee did not consider the underlying constitutional
principles or the case for a Civil Service Act to replace the
Orders in Council under which the Civil Service was and is governed,
and the contents of a governing statute.
The House of Commons Treasury and Civil Service Committee
published its Fifth Report on The Role of the Civil Service
in 1994. It called for implementation of the Northcote-Trevelyan
recommendation to put the Civil Service Commission on a statutory
basis, but did not make detailed proposals.
The Lords Select Committee on the Public Service,
chaired by Lord Slynn of Hadley, published its report in 1998.
That Committee was appointed to consider "the present condition
and future development of the Public Service in Great Britain
with particular regard to the effectiveness of recent and continuing
changes and their impact on standards of conduct and service in
the public interest". The Committee's invitation to submit
evidence focused on two questions: (a) is there an irreducible
minimum of functions which must remain within the public service;
and if so what are they and why can they not be done elsewhere?;
and (b) is there a distinctive public service ethos; and if so
what function does it serve, and where does it reside? The Committee
looked at the case for a Civil Service Act in passing, but given
the broad remit of its inquiry, the issue was not given detailed
The Committee on Standards in Public Life considered
the relationship between Ministers, Civil Servants and Special
Advisers in its Sixth Report, Reinforcing Standards: Review
of the First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
This report recommended that the Civil Service Code be put on
a statutory footing and that a timetable be produced for the implementation
of the Government's commitment to a Civil Service Act as soon
as possible. The Committee
revisited the issue in its Ninth Report, Defining the Boundaries
within the Executive: Ministers, Special Advisers and the permanent
Civil Service, and
recommended that there should be a short Act to cover the Civil
Service and Special Advisers.
The House of Commons Public Administration Select
Committee published a draft Civil Service Bill in December 2003
on similar lines to Lord Lester's Bill, after taking written and
oral evidence on the issue.
This Committee is also currently conducting an inquiry of a general
nature on the impartiality of the Civil Service.
The Government published a draft Civil Service Bill
in November 2004 as part of a consultation document.
This followed repeated assurances that the Government was committed
to a Civil Service Act. The Cabinet Office is also currently consulting
a new draft Civil Service Code.
The Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee
on the Constitution, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, wrote to Lord Bassam
of Brighton on 12 March 2006 expressing the Committee's disappointment
that the Government reiterated its intention to make a statement
about the consultation exercise on a Civil Service Bill "in
due course", without giving any clearer indication of when
this might be, or when a Bill might be introduced to Parliament.
The House of Lords has great expertise in this area,
and is able to benefit from the knowledge and experience of former
Ministers, members of the Home and Diplomatic Civil Service, Civil
Service Commissioners, and constitutional lawyers, among others.
It is well placed to consider and recommend proposals for reform
at a time when Government policy is being developed, and in a
way that may be of real practical importance.
It is proposed that the Committee would consider
the issues covered in Part 2 of and Schedule 3 to the Bill, namely:
1. the case for a Civil Service Act to replace
the Orders in Council under which the Civil Service
was and is governed;
2. the contents of a governing statute;
3. the principles for appointments to, and
the operation of, the Civil Service;
4. the merit principle and any exceptions
5. the duties of Civil Servants and Special
6. the duties of Ministers in relation to
the impartiality and integrity of the Civil Service;
7. establishment of the Civil Service Commission
as a statutory body;
8. functions of the Civil Service Commission,
including powers of oversight of Civil Service
appointments and conduct;
9. codes of conduct for Civil Servants and
Special Advisers; and
10. powers of investigation into contraventions
relating to the Civil Service.
In the course of its inquiry the Committee may wish
to consider the underlying constitutional principles governing
relations between Ministers, Civil Servants, Special Advisers,
Parliament and the public.
For its work to be relevant to the development of
policy, the Committee would need to complete its work by the Summer
recess of 2007.
1 The Bill mirrors Lord Lester's previous Bill, the
Executive Powers and Civil Service Bill, which had its Second
Reading on 5 March 2004. Back
The Civil Service, Cmnd. 3638, June 1968. Back
Treasury and Civil Service Committee, The Role of the Civil
Service, Session 1993-94, HC 27-I, para 116. Back
Select Committee on the Public Service, January 1998. Back
The Committee noted that "It is a matter for consideration
whether such responsibility [for protecting the ethos and morale
of the Civil Service] should be included expressly in the Civil
Service Act the introduction of which, on balance, we favour.
We recommend that it should be so included.": Paragraph XXV.
For more detailed recommendations on a Civil Service Act, see
further paras 415-418. Back
Cm 4557, January 2000. Back
The report also made recommendations regarding Special Advisers
and the Special Advisers' code. Back
Cm 5775, April 2003. Back
A Draft Civil Service Bill: Completing the Reform (HC
The inquiry is titled "Politics and Administration: Ministers
and Civil Servants". Back
A Draft Civil Service Bill: A Consultation Document, Cm
6373, November 2004. Back
The consultation period ends on 21 April 2006. Back