§ Mr. Cohen
Is not there a great deal of opposition to the Government's proposed reform of the civil service? Do not people talk of the quality of service being damaged by privatisation and huge job cuts? Why have the mandarins remained untouched? As they are now little more than highly paid political advisers, should not their immunity from radical reform be ended?
§ Mr. Hunt
My predecessor published a lengthy and detailed White Paper on civil service reform. Since then, we have had a number of representations. I cannot recall one expressed in the terms in which the hon. Gentleman has now put his views. No doubt he will communicate them in the usual way. I am a firm believer in a high-quality civil service of the highest integrity. That is what we have and I am determined that we should build on an already strong base.
§ Sir Thomas Arnold
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the progress to date of next steps agencies? What plans does he have to introduce further such agencies?
§ Mr. Mandelson
Does the Minister agree that there is an urgent need for a new code of ethics governing the work of civil servants and their relations with Ministers which would help to clear up the impression that standards of integrity and of independence within the civil service have fallen? Will the Minister give positive consideration to that proposal, as his predecessor undertook to do?
§ Mr. Hunt
We saw a number of accusations flying during the party conference season, particularly at the Liberal Democrat conference, made by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). I felt very ashamed at the remarks which attacked the integrity of civil servants and those who give evidence to Select Committees. I am always looking for ways in which we can improve. I ask the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) to recognise that we already have an extremely good code. Obviously, we want to see it improve wherever possible. However, we have a public service of the highest standards, which is recognised right across the world.