I have the highest regard for the Civil Service, but that does not mean there is no room for improvement – this is one reform that I think would help to modernise it. I had a good experience of working with civil servants at Defra even if I had a difficult time dealing with the four horsemen of the apocalypse: flood, drought, famine and plague. The Cabinet Office has embarked on reforms that I know make civil servants anxious, but the so-called Rolls Royce service may be in need of a service itself. I think the secretary of state should be allowed to sit on the panel of senior civil servants which decides the appointment of a new permanent secretary. They will know the character of the department and what it needs whereas the other panel members have their own agendas. It is also no exaggeration to say that their political life will depend to some extent on this choice as the two will have to go into bat together before select committees, more often than not when things have gone wrong. I do not think this modest change amounts to politicisation – just a fair reflection of the interdependence […]

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