Civil Service Commission

History of the Commission

Here are some of the key milestones in the history of the Commission and the Civil Service Commissioners.

1854 - Northcote-Trevelyan Report

The Report on the organisation of the permanent Civil Service identified patronage as one of the main reasons for endemic inefficiency and public disrepute. It recommended open competitive examination to test merit.

1855 - Civil Service Commissioners established

The first Civil Service Commissioners were appointed and set up an office – the Civil Service Commission – to run written examinations and to give approval for the appointment of civil servants.

1870-1920 - Gradual extension of powers

During this period the Civil Service Commissioners’ powers were steadily extended to cover virtually all Civil Service appointments.

1950s - Selection processes widened

Selection processes such as interview of those possessing appropriate academic qualifications, psychometric testing, and assessment centres were introduced to supplement or replace written examinations.

1968 - Civil Service Department created

On the recommendation of the Fulton Committee Report, the Civil Service Commission was merged with the personnel management divisions of the Treasury to form the Civil Service Department.

1982 - Responsibility for selection divided

A change to the Civil Service Order in Council divided responsibility for selection. The Civil Service Commissioners retained responsibility for the selection of middle and senior level staff (15% of the Civil Service), but Departments assumed full responsibility for selection at junior levels (the majority of recruitment).

1991 - Civil Service Commission replaced

New Orders in Council (one for the Home Civil Service and one for the Diplomatic Service) extended departments’ and agencies’ area of responsibility to over 95% of recruitment to the Civil Service. At the same time the Civil Service Commission was replaced by two organisations:
An Office of the Civil Service Commissioners – to support the Commissioners which for resource purposes is located in Cabinet Office.

Recruitment and Assessment Services (RAS), an independent Agency established to provide recruitment, consultancy and related services to departments and agencies. RAS became a private sector organisation under Capita Group plc in 1996.

1995 - Civil Service Commissioners role reaffirmed

Changes to the two 1991 Orders in Council returned sole responsibility for interpreting the principle of selection on merit on the basis of fair and open competition for all Civil Service recruitment to the Civil Service Commissioners. The Commissioners are also responsible for describing those circumstances in which exceptions can be made to the principle of recruitment on merit within the parameters of the Order.

The Commissioners retained direct responsibility for approving appointments of recruits to the most senior posts only. Provision was made for them to audit the recruitment systems of departments and agencies for compliance with their Recruitment Code to ensure the recruitment on merit is being followed for all other Civil Service appointments.

1996 - Power to determine appeals under Civil Service Code

The Civil Service Commissioners were given a new further role to hear and determine appeals in cases of concerns raised by civil servants under the Civil Service Code.

2009 - Recruitment Principles replaced the Recruitment Code

New high-level Recruitment Principles replace the Civil Service Commissioners’ Recruitment Code.

2010 - Constitutional Reform and Governance Act

Enactment of Part One of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 established the Civil Service Commission as a body corporate.