MPs restart inquiry into civil service capability

Committee chair Bernard Jenkin says that Brexit will expose “where understandings are weak and where relationships are strained” in Whitehall


Photo: Parliament TV

By Richard Johnstone

20 Sep 2017

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee has today announced it will restart its inquiry into civil service effectiveness and capability, with chair Bernard Jenkin warning of the toll Brexit will likely take on Whitehall.

PACAC chair Bernard Jenkin Photo: Parliament TV

The review will pick up from the interim report published by its predecessor committee in May ahead of the snap general election, which warned of a of "fractured" relationship between perm secs and ministers.

The new inquiry will focus on how ministers and civil servants work together, building on the research undertaken for the previous committee by Henley Business School professor Andrew Kakabadse, which warned of the impact of a lack of prioritisation in Whitehall.


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Announcing the restart of the inquiry today, Jenkin said the country can be very proud of Whitehall as a whole, and of the civil and diplomatic services, but Brexit was “helping to expose where understandings are weak and where relationships are strained”.

He added: “A common purpose, trust and understanding, as well as technical expertise and experience, are so crucial for the civil service to perform efficiently and effectively. Both the capability of the civil service as a whole, and the individual relationships between ministers and officials, will impact on this effectiveness and the ability of the civil service to meet its present and future challenges”.

As well as building on the committee’s previous work, the review comes after a National Audit Office report  published in March warned that the demand of service pressures, major projects and Brexit are outpacing Whitehall’s capacity to deliver at a time of staffing restrictions and spending restraint.

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