Ministers 'probably undertrained'

Govt urged to professionalise
Govt urged to professionalise

Too many ministers are not qualified to do their jobs, government insiders have told MPs.

Cabinet office minister Ed Miliband yesterday told the public administration select committee ministers were "probably undertrained".

Former Labour minister Nick Raynsford went further and said ministers were not undertrained but simply untrained.

The pre-scheduled evidence session comes as the government faces increasing scepticism of its competence, following a series of high-profile failings.

Mr Raynsford told MPs: "There is no organisation in the world with similar responsibilities which is as utterly cavalier as British government about the capability of the people it puts into ministerial positions."

He said ministers received little support throughout their time in office, with no performance appraisals and no attempt made at exit interviews.

Mr Miliband said Whitehall was being urged to use formal management procedures and development tools in a bid to bring the public sector inline with the private.

"There's a lot more we can do," he said.

Departments are encouraged to use the National School of Government to train ministers as well as civil servants, while Mr Miliband has overseen the introduction of an induction course for new ministers.

Mr Miliband said he had spoken with the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, about ways to improve ministers' skills.

He told the committee: "Training is important. It's easy for people to be contemptuous of the notion of coaches and training; I think ministers are probably undertrained.

"Before working as a minister I've been a special adviser working with civil servants - but there are a whole set of issues around working with civil servants in daily life."

But, Mr Miliband warned there were limits to how much the ministerial system - were people are promoted and fired on the say-so of the prime minister - could be professionalised.

Mr Miliband explained: "People might say - and might say about me - that promotion and so on are quite capricious. It's hard to have formalised appraisal.

"But government doesn't do enough - a lot of things the private sector would take for granted aren't done sufficiently."


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