With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. Richard Heaton, Ministry of Justice permanent secretary and civil service-wide Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) champion, takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs' round-up series...
How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?
I’ll answer this in terms of the civil service and my role as race equality champion. We are beginning to recruit a good number of talented individuals from black and minority ethnic backgrounds into a range of different professions. Our Fast Stream is more diverse than it’s ever been, for example. But we seem to harbour a persistent obstacle to talented black colleagues staying the course, getting on, and reaching the senior grades. So we have focused on development programmes, role models, how we do promotions, and so on. But I have also tried to promote the cultural aspect of all this. We need to get better at recognising why and in what way we make things harder than they need to be for BAME colleagues. We need to challenge easy, who-you-know temporary promotions. We definitely need to get more comfortable talking about race.
What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?
Prisons reform – closing down old and unsatisfactory prisons in our city centres, and building new prisons where we can invest in education and rehabilitation; and giving more autonomy to governors. Court and tribunals reform – making justice easy, fair, accessible, digital, and cheaper. Bill of Rights – re-stating human rights, and emphasising that the UK Supreme Court is the apex court for domestic law. And making the Ministry of Justice itself smaller and better, but remaining an inclusive department truly built on respect and the civil service values.
What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?
If the film comes on, it’s usually time to go for a walk. As for games, all the family would enjoy the traditional Duckie quiz at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016