The Power of Civil Servants

Peter Hennessy and David Normington / Introduction by Claire Foster-Gilbert

British civil servants are unique figure, required to be independent custodians of propriety and dedicated to Ministers’ priorities, yet ready to recalibrate their focus overnight when a new Minister is appointed. Often mistreated as pen-pushers or scapegoats, they are duty-bound against defending themselves in public or acting on personal principle at the expense of the Civil Service Code.

Peter Hennessy and David Normington bring personal insight to their illumination of the origins and purpose of this invaluable institution. Looking closely at the mechanics of government, they assess both the longstanding threats to civil servants’ political impartiality and the new challenges posed by Brexit, providing an essential introduction to life in the Civil Service.

PETER HENNESSY is an independent cross-bench peer and Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary, University of London. Formerly a prominent journalist, Lord Hennessy co-founded the Institute of Contemporary British History in 1986 and entered academia in 1992.

DAVID NORMINGTON was a civil servant for 37 years, and served as Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education and Skills (2001-05) and the Home Office (2006-11). After retiring from the Civil Service in 2011, Sir David became the First Civil Service Commissioner and Commissioner for Public Appointments.

CLARE FOSTER-GILBERT is the founder director of the Westminster Abbey Institute. A current and former member of numerous ethic committees, Dr Foster-Gilbert has played an instrumental role in the medical research ethics field, and has led efforts to shift the Church’s thinking on environmental issues.

Published with Westminster Abbey Institute.

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