Letter: Civil Service recruitment

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From Dame Gillian Brown

Sir: The Government's plan to privatise the Civil Service Recruitment and Advisory Service has had scant publicity, but as a result of questions in the House of Lords it will be debated there on 8 March. I hope the Government will be persuaded to drop the scheme.

The advantages of privatisation for undertakings needing major investment and competition scarcely apply. Earl Home stated on 25 January that it would free the RAS to compete for business in a wider market. Is that realistic given the multitude of existing agencies? A stated purpose is to provide a better service with better value for the taxpayer. Is that well thought out? Assurances that civil servants will retain control over tests for and appointments to "the fast stream" and that audits could lead to a sub-standard RAS losing the contract may allay some anxieties, but the likely outcome seems to be a complicated system involving extra work rather than savings.

In my experience, based on many years in the Diplomatic Service and later as an assessor for the Civil Service Selection Board, our recruitment system has a justifiably high reputation at home and abroad for its integrity and effective assessment methods. Indeed the Government has advanced no specific criticism of the RAS, so why dismantle it?

Yours sincerely,

Gillian Brown,

London, W8