Letter: A distorted picture of the Civil Service

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Sir: May I comment on three of the most misleading statements in Sarah Hegarty's highly distorted picture of the Civil Service (22


1. She says Whitehall watchers suspect that Sir Peter Kemp's non-Oxbridge background was a factor in his early retirement. Nonsense, and implausible nonsense when his successor is not Oxbridge.

2. 'The Oxbridge influence still prevails.' The fact is that the Oxbridge element of the administrative fast-stream entry has declined from 71 per cent in 1982 to 42 per cent in 1992, and that only 38 per cent of the 690 staff in the top three grades of the service were Oxbridge. But I stress that the Civil Service does not want to discourage Oxbridge; we want to encourage others.

3. 'The day a woman becomes a permanent secretary will be a real breakthrough.' (Stated by Hilary Muggridge, editor of The Whitehall Companion.) There have been women permanent secretaries since the Sixties. Contrary to the article, there are two women of permanent secretary rank now. And while it is true that only 8 per cent of the most senior ranks are women, this is double the proportion of five years ago and it is increasing fast.

Yours sincerely,


Secretary of the Cabinet and

Head of the Home Civil Service

Cabinet Office

London, SW1

22 October