“PASC is our committee,” he said. “They oversee our work, and they said: ‘Don’t have piecemeal reform until there’s been a longer-term look at the civil service. For the commission to go ahead without PASC’s support would have been a big deal.”
“We depend on the parliamentary consensus, and if the body that oversees us in parliament says: ‘Don’t do piecemeal reform at this point,’ we have to take serious notice of that.”
The Civil Service Commission has just consulted on whether to give the prime minister an increased say in the selection of permanent secretaries, offering him a choice between two candidates when they have broadly equal merit. “There was no clear-cut outcome” in the responses, Normington commented.
The commission will wait for a “more in-depth look” at the civil service before considering further changes to appointments. “It looks as though the idea of a Parliamentary Commission, which PASC has been calling for, has receded – but there are others looking at the civil service,” said Normington. Meanwhile, the commission has refined the wording of the existing process to make it clearer that the prime minister gets a final say, and that ministers should be included in the appointment process.