By Maximilian Clarke

The Commons Public Administration Select Committee has today rejected the government’s refusal to reduce the numbers on ministers in the commons, arguing that high numbers of ministers reflect government’s lack of a clear strategy for civil service reform.

The Committee had recommended a reduction, arguing that numbers of ministers driven by traditions of patronage, and did not reflect, nor justify, government’s needs. Government rejected the Committee’s recommendations.

"The government say they are keeping ministerial numbers "under review" but that is political code for their refusal to engage with the committee on this recommendation,” said Bernard Jenkin MP, the Committee’s chair. “There are more unpaid ministers in this government than ever — described to us by one eminent witness, Peter Riddell, as "an abuse".

“There are also therefore more ministers in the Commons than ever. There are more PPSs than we consider necessary. This is more about exercising patronage over MPs, and thus being able to influence debates and votes, than it is about efficiency and accountability.”

If the government feels they need so many ministers to control the apparatus of government, that is because there is no strategic plan for civil service reform, which would make the Whitehall command chain much more responsive to ministers. No number of ministers is substitute for effective leadership in Whitehall Departments, as we set out in our recent report Change In Government: The Agenda For Leadership."

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