In a speech at Tsinghua University on Thursday 16th October, Martin Donnelly, the senior official at the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) described how, in the 21st Century, it was vital for a government to have an independent group of officials who could provide policy makers with unbiased advice.
In this speech, called ‘The Positive Neutrality of Civil Servants’, Martin emphasised the need for separate ‘political’ and ‘administrative’ roles in government. The political role was performed by decision-makers (Ministers) who were elected through a democratic process. These decision-makers were supported by a system of advisors and administrators (civil servants) who were selected in a fair and open recruitment process.
Martin stressed the importance of ensuring the independence of the civil service system. By doing so, it meant that civil servants did not rely on political connections to further their careers. It also meant civil servants would be in a position to supply Ministers with advice they did not want to hear. Furthermore, an independent civil service meant that Ministers could be sure they received unbiased and non-political advice.
Martin also emphasised the need for the wider public to have trust in the civil service. It was vital that the public viewed civil servants as playing an important role in government. Martin pointed out that the civil service could only win public trust if all of its processes were open and transparent, and if civil servants behaved with integrity at all times.
A full transcript of Martin’s speech can be found here.