Whitehall chief to stamp out 'sofa-style' governing

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, signalled he would tighten up procedures within Whitehall and clamp down on the casual approach to decision-making. Speaking on his first day in office at the head of the home Civil Service, he said he believed there was a problem with trust that needed to be addressed.

"I'm quite traditional in the sense that it's very important that the advice that goes in terms of audit trails and decisions are duly noted," he said. His remarks will be interpreted as a criticism of Mr Blair, who was attacked for his casual style of government by Lord Butler, the former cabinet secretary who chaired the inquiry into intelligence in the approach to the Iraq war.

Sir Gus, a former treasury permanent secretary, said protecting the integrity and impartiality of the home Civil Service, and ensuring honesty in the Government were key to maintaining public trust.

His comments come after Sir Alistair Graham, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, warned, in an interview with The Independent, that public trust in the Government had shown no signs of recovering since the Iraq war. "Where I strongly agree with Alistair is on this business of trust. I think it's one of these things we need to keep working on", Sir Gus said.

In a departure from his predecessor Sir Andrew Turnbull, Sir Gus indicated he was prepared to look again at whether to introduce a Civil Service Act that would enshrine in law the issues of impartiality and integrity of the Civil Service.

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