The constitutional position of the British Civil Service : an assessment of the impact of managerialism on the notion of 'the servant of the Crown' via a case study of HM Prison Service
The institution of the civil service is of much contemporary interest here in Britain and elsewhere. The phenomenon of civil service reform forms a significant part of the wider movement to remould public services or in the now legendary phrase, to ‘reinvent government’ on what could be perceived as a global scale, ranging from the more sophisticated democracies such as in the USA, Britain, Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, to the newly emerging ones such as Eastern Europe and South Africa. The apparent trend of globalisation is arguably not only confined to the field of public service reform; it can also be seen in other contexts such as the growth of the intergovernmental cooperations within Europe and the Far-East, as well as the proliferation of the Information Superhighway which facilitates an electronic exchange of ideas across geographical frontiers. The reasons for this apparent global convergence fall outside the immediate province of this chapter. This thesis questions one of the enigmas of the modern British constitution, which is that the civil service does not have a statutory footing. So, it is the Executive rather than Parliament which has the prerogative power of regulating the civil service. The enigma is encapsulated in the position where the Executive regulates the civil service, which in turn serves the Executive qua their historical status as 'servants of the Crown'. The thesis is concerned with the cumulative impact of managerial reforms within the British civil service during the Conservative administration from 1979 - 1997 on the idea of civil servants as 'servants of the Crown'. It argues that the key managerial initiatives introduced into the civil service by the Conservative government during this period, illustrate the dangers of the notion of 'servant of the Crown' being captured by the Executive for their short-term political ends. The thesis shows that the managerial transformation collides not only with established constitutional doctrines relating to the civil service but also with the broader norm or theory of constitutionalism embedded in British constitutional history.