Civil Servant

The 1968 Fulton Report

In 1965 the Select Committee on Estimates had published a report on Recruitment to the Civil Service, in which a recommendation was made that 'A Committee ... should be appointed to initiate research upon, to examine and to report upon the structure, recruitment and management of the Civil Service'. On 8th February 1966, the Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced in the House of Commons the appointment of a Committee on the Civil Service (which became known as the Fulton Committee) 'to examine the structure, recruitment and management, including training, of the Home Civil Service, and to make recommendations'. The Committee was urged to report urgently, but although it set itself the target of reporting in the Spring of 1967, it found that its task was so demanding that it was unable to report until 1968. The Committee was not entirely happy with its terms of reference, which excluded the machinery of Government. The Committee found that 'at many points of our enquiry ... this imposed limits on our work; questions about the number and size of departments, and their relationships with each other and the Cabinet Office, bear closely on the work and organisation of the Civil Service'.

Many of the changes which occurred in the Civil Service in the period after 1968 arose out of the Fulton recommendations. The Committee's findings are described below. The Committee's Report was published as a command paper, Cmnd. 3638 entitled The Report of the Committee on the Civil Service. Links to the full text are at the end of this web page.

The Findings of the Fulton Committee

In the first chapter of the its Report, the Fulton Committee stated that the Civil Service of the day was fundamentally the product of the nineteenth-century philosophy produced by the Northcote-Trevelyan Report; whereas the tasks the Civil Service faced were those of the twentieth century. The Civil Service was found to be inadequate to meet those tasks in six main respects.

(a) The Civil Service was essentially based on the cult of the amateur or generalist. This feature was most evident in the administrative class which dominated the service. Administrative class officials were regarded as amateur because they were moved too frequently from job to job and had no specific professional education or formal training for their work.

(b) The system of classes impeded the work of the Civil Service. The Fulton Committee was critical of the classification system, which it considered had caused the Civil Service to become rigid and had made it difficult for staff to move among the various classes. The Committee also took the view that the word 'class' in Britain had developed social connotations which could produce feelings of inferiority. As an alternative, the Committee proposed occupational 'groups' and 'categories', together with a simplified pay structure.

(c) Many scientists, engineers and other professional specialists were not given the responsibility or authority they deserved. The Committee therefore recommended that these specialists be given more policy-making and management opportunities, and training to equip them for their new work. The Committee recommended the creation of a new Civil Service College to provide this training and to meet the other training needs identified in the report.

(d) The Committee considered that the Civil Service lacked skilled managers. One reason for this was that most of the work of most Senior Civil Servants was not managerial, but rather related to matters such as the preparation of explanatory briefs and answers to parliamentary questions. To improve management skills, the Committee recommended that administrators should become more specialised, and more training in management should be given to scientists and specialists. The Committee also recommended that the principles of 'accountable management' be introduced. (According to those principles, the performance of individuals (or units) is measured as objectively as possible, and those individuals (or units) are then held responsible for tasks they have performed. Accountable management requires cost centres to be identified, and costs to be precisely allocated to the official in charge of each one.) To improve management even further, the Committee recommended several more innovations: the establishment of a new Civil Service Department; the creation of a management services unit in each department to promote new management techniques; a planning and research unit to undertake major long term planning; and the creation of departmental planning units to acquire facts and to consider and administer policy. The head of the planning unit would be the Senior Policy Adviser to the Minister.

(e) The Committee considered that there was not enough contact between the Civil Service and the rest of the community. This was partly because Civil Servants were expected to spend their entire working lives in the Service, and partly because the administrative process was surrounded by too much secrecy. The Committee therefore recommended greater openness in Government, less anonymity for officials, and greater mobility of staff into and out of the service. They recommended the use of short term appointments, temporary interchange with industry and commerce, and more flexible pension arrangements.

(f) The Committee also took the view that within the Civil Service there were major defects in personnel management. There was not enough career planning, and communication was bad between the Civil Service Commission, departmental establishment divisions and the Treasury. The Committee therefore recommended the creation of a new Civil Service Department, within which the Civil Service Commission would continue to operate, and the adoption of new recruitment procedures for administrators and high fliers.

The Civil Service Department

One of the questions which the Fulton Committee addressed was whether the Treasury was the right Government department to exercise personnel responsibilities within the Civil Service. Should recruiting policy and management remain the concern of a department whose primary responsibility was for finance? The Fulton Committee took considerable evidence on this question, including an important memorandum prepared by Sir Lawrence Helsby, then Head of the Civil Service. The Committee concluded that the Treasury's management role had been 'patchy rather than systematic, with too few staff and too little expertise'. The Committee accordingly recommended that a new Government department should be established straight away, with responsibility specifically for the Civil Service. The Committee also expected that the new CSD, once established, might be responsible for the implementation of the Committee's other recommendations.

The new Civil Service Department (CSD) was accordingly established on 1st November 1968. It took over the responsibilities of the Civil Service Commission, and the responsibilities of the pay and management divisions of the Treasury. 900 Civil Servants were transferred from the Treasury to the new Civil Service Department, and the Lord Privy Seal, Lord Shackleton, was appointed by the Prime Minister to oversee the Department's day to day operation. Sir William Armstrong, who was the Joint Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, left the Treasury and became the new Head of the Civil Service.

The Civil Service College

When the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, announced the creation of the new Civil Service Department in 1968, he also announced that a Civil Service College would be created under the new department's direction. It was expected that a great deal of college training would be needed, and there were therefore to be three training centres: two residential (one at Sunningdale and one in Edinburgh), and one non-residential (the Centre for Administrative Studies in London). The headquarters at Sunningdale was formally opened by Prime Minister Edward Heath on 26th June 1970, and the Edinburgh Centre was opened in November 1970.

Following the year 1968-69, the Civil Service Department announced that central management training in the Civil Service had been increased by nearly 80 per cent. This included twice as much training for all classes at Principal level. In total, about 8,000 Civil Servants attended courses at the College in that year. In addition, considerably more use was being made of external courses, held, for example, at universities and business schools. By 1969-70, well over 200,000 Civil Servants were receiving formal training in their departments and in the same year 25,000 Civil Servants attended external training courses ranging from first degree courses to short seminars of two or three days' duration.

The Report

The following links will take you to the report itself:-

Fulton Chapter 1 - The Civil Service Today - also Committee Membership, Preface, and Table of Contents
Fulton Chapter 2 - The Tasks of the Modern Civil Service, and the Men and Women They Need
Fulton Chapter 3 - Recruitment, Training and Career Management
Fulton Chapter 4 - Mobility, Pensions and a Career Service
Fulton Chapter 5 - The Structure of Departments and the Promotion of Efficiency
Fulton Chapter 6 - The Structure of the Civil Service
Fulton Chapter 7 - The Central Management of the Civil Service, and Relations with Staff Associations
Fulton Chapter 8 - The Civil Service and the Community
Fulton Chapter 9 - Summary of Main Findings (also Reservation by Lord Simey, and Scope of Inquiry)