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Political Control Of Civil Service. Essay

982 words - 4 pages

The principle mechanism of political control of the Civil Service is the convention of individual ministerial responsibility. The convention relies heavily on the notion that the minister is responsible to Parliament for the actions of his department and is expected to give accounts to Parliament of matters relating to his department. The convention is designed to create accountability of ministers to Parliament and to safeguard Civil Servants from blame. In practice some parts of this convention have become diluted and politicized, where ministers are reluctant to take full responsibility for policy errors. An example of this is the Derek Lewis affair and Norman Lamont who presided over the collapse of Britain´s ERM policy in 1992 and had to be sacked by John Major.The development of the 'next step agencies´ led to a diminishing of responsibility between, ministers who are responsible for strategic planning and chief executive who have responsibility for operational matters, for example Derek Lewis and prison agenciesIt is obvious that Ministers cannot have in depth knowledge of the running of their department and may not have the specialist knowledge required to address issues on a detailed basis. It has been stated that Ministers have knowledge of just over 1% of all administration decision and tend to only get involved in major policy decisions. It is therefore difficult to know how they can be logically held responsible and yet the public perspective is that they are accountable for not only all decisions which arise from their departments, but also for the processes involved in implementing decisions.Circumstances make a difference on how the individual reacts. A minister who should resign might be protected by his cabinet colleagues, not to de-stabalise government but in other circumstances. EG - Norman Lamont - when forced out of ERM should have resigned but didn´t for two reasons. Number 1, he didn´t want to and 2, his cabinet didn´t want him to, as they wanted to try and portray a unity, a stronger Prime Minster would have forced him out. At other times government might make a political gesture and find a scapegoat as Leon Britton over the Westland affairPermanence and expertise gives the civil servants a source of influence over the minister. Ministers are in a department on average far less a time period than their civil servants. The BBC documentary on the DSS under Peter Lilley in 1997 showed how dependent Peter Lilley was on his top civil servants, and both Tony Benn and Richard Crossman in their biographies, criticized the civil servants for obstructionist attitudes based on 'we know best'.When Thatcher came to power she was aware that there would be a reluctance from the Civil Servants to implement radical policy - she was anxious to exert political control over the Civil Service. This mirrored the leadership style that had carried her though government.Before the 1997 election, the question was...

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