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Executive Powers and Civil Service Bill

  • Executive Powers and Civil Service Bill
  • Explanatory Notes
    (PDF Format, 231KB)
  • House of Lords:
    Second Reading Debate

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    In the past, the Trust has pressed for reform of the fragmented and opaque rules on the roles of civil servants and special advisers and for the introduction of a Civil Service Bill in the interests of transparency and good governance. In 2003, the drafting of Lord Lester's Private Member's Bill, the Executive Powers and Civil Service Bill furthered these aims. The Trust worked closely with a former Parliamentary Counsel, Stephanie Grundy and others to produce a far-reaching Bill, incorporating many of the recommendations of the Ninth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, 'Defining the Boundaries within the Executive: Minister, Special Adviser and the permanent Civil Service' (The Wicks Report).

    The Bill is intended to introduce reforms in relation to a range of Ministerial powers that are exercisable by virtue of the Royal Prerogative. Prerogative powers are rights and powers handed to Ministers by the monarch. There is no definitive statement of the scope of these powers but they include the powers to ratify treaties with other countries, to mobilise troops, to regulate the Civil Service and make appointments to certain public positions. The Bill creates a statutory framework for the exercise of these powers. It contains detailed provisions dealing with particular areas (the civil service, special advisers and public appointments) and makes provision for general review by Parliament in all other areas. The Bill makes provision, amongst other things, with respect to:

  • a statutory basis for review by Parliament of executive powers generally, with specific requirements in relation to treaties and armed combat;
  • the fundamental principles underlying appointments to, and operation of, the Civil Service;
  • duties of special advisers;
  • the establishment of the Civil Service Commission as a statutory body;
  • the functions of the Civil Service Commission, including powers of oversight of Civil Service appointments and conduct;
  • the creation of the office of Commissioner for Public Appointments to advise on appointments to certain public offices and the establishment of a Parliamentary Public Appointments Committee to approve them.

    Current Status:
    The Bill was given a second reading in the House of Lords on 5 March 2004. There was considerable support for the Bill and the Trust continues to promote the Bill in both Houses. The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee has also long believed that a Bill to enshrine key principles and structures to safeguard them in statute is long overdue. In 2003, the Committee decided to draft their own Bill. (This Bill has now been published and has been introduced in the House of Commons by the Conservative MP Oliver Heald.) There is also a Government commitment to produce a draft Bill in 2004. It is very much hoped that Lord Lester's Bill will raise the Government's sights.