The Civil Service

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  • The Civil Service
    • What is the Civil Service?
      • Her  Majesty's Civil Service is the permanent bureaucracy of Crown employees that supports UK Government minsters
      • Ministers are responsible to to Sovereign and Parliament in administering in the UK
      • But their executive decisions are implemented by civil servants, who are employees of the Crown and not Parliament
      • Civil servants also have some traditional and statutory responsiblites which to some extent protect them from being used for the political advantage of the party in power
      • Some senior civil servants may be called to account to Parliament- a check on their power
    • Who are civil servants?
      • The staff that work in the departments of government
      • There are about 500,000 civil servants (UK's largest employer)  but only about 3,500 senior civil servants
    • Anonymity
      • Civil servants are anonymous
      • Individual civil servants are not named as  as source policy advice, so that they are apolitical and not seen
      • They sign the Official Secrets Act
        • The Official Secrets Act is an Act of Parliament for the protection  of official information, mainly related to national security
      • Civil servants are rarely held responsible for their actions- job of their minister
    • Permaence
      • Civil servants stay in their posts when a government leaves office
      • Due to their impartiality they are suppose to serve many "masters"
    • Neutrality
      • Civil servants serve the Crown not the Government
      • Nor do they serve a political party
      • They are expected to remain neutral
      • They are not  to become involved with overtly political tasks
    • Meritocracy
      • They are recruited through a tough and competitive examination
      • Therefore, everyone earns their position
      • Promoted on merit
    • Ministers and Civil Servants
      • Individual ministerial responsibility-ministers are responsible for what goes wrong in their departments
      • The Howard Principle
        • Home Secetary Michael Howard refused to resign for prison outbreaks and blamed someone else
      • Resignation may be necessary
      • Helps preserve civil service anonymity- so that the Civil Service don't loose their job
    • Examples  of Ministerial Responsibility in the Civil Service
      • Lord Carrington (Foreign Minister)- took responsbility for failure to foresee the Falklands War 1982
      • James Prior- 1983- took responsibility the Maze Prison escape (where IRA members being held)
      • Leon Brittan (Trade and Industry), Michael Hesletine (Defense), resigned over the Westland Affair- 1986
      • Estelle Morris (education secretary)- resigned as numeracy and literacy were not met by schools, 2001
      • Untitled


Old Sir

This offers a useful overview of the civil service and the essentials of understanding the way it operates in conjunction with the elected executive. Using this as a starting-point, students might wish to augment their knowledge by reading about civil service reform under Thatcher and the increasing appointment of advisors who once would have been described as 'political', with the blurring of definitions of their status and roles.

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