1. Wasn't this title superfluous back when

The ministership was created for Harold Wilson on 1 November 1968 when responsibilities for the pay and management of the Civil Service was transferred from HM Treasury to a new Civil Service Department.

  1. Why hasn't this superfluous title been forsaken? It's gotta be perplexing to some people! Isn't it way simpler just to refer to the PM, like in the 1985 case below?

Colin Faragher. Public Law Concentrate (1 ed 2019). p 72.

The Prime Minister is Minister for the Civil Service. Section 3 Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 provides that the Minister for the Civil Service has the power to manage the civil service. This includes, among other things, the power to make appointments. The agreement of the Minister for the Civil Service is required in matters concerning the remuneration of civil servants (including compensation payable upon leaving the civil service) or the conditions on which civil servants may retire. In exercising his power to manage the civil service, the Minister for the Civil Service shall have regard to the need to ensure that civil servants who advise ministers are aware of the constitutional significance of Parliament and of the conventions governing the relationship between Parliament and Her Majesty’s Government.

p 142

Lord Diplock, in the House of Lords’ decision in Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service (1985) classified the grounds as illegality, irrationality, and procedural impropriety

2 Answers 2


The Prime Minister has held the post of Minister for the Civil Service so far, but the PM could appoint a separate minister if they wished.

The structure of departments of government is not fixed by constitution or law in the United Kingdom. Prime Ministers can re-arrange it if they wish. They are usually quite cautious about doing so, because it can be disruptive. As a recent example, the Department for Exiting the European Union was set up shortly after the Brexit referendum and closed down on 31st January 2020.

The Cabinet Secretary, the highest position in the Civil Service, is also the administrative Head of the Civil Service, which means that routine Civil Service matters can be handled expeditiously between the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary, who naturally have to meet regularly to organise the affairs of the Cabinet.

If a Prime Minister wanted to undertake a major reform of the Civil Service, it might well be reasonable to appoint a separate Minister for the Civil Service to undertake the details of that reform. Such a Minister might be part of the Cabinet Office, or have a separate department.

As a reminder, UK Civil Servants are professionals. There is no "spoils system", and thus no real equivalents to the large number of US civil servants who are political appointments that need to be filled by each incoming administration. A change of UK government can cause a gradual change of tone at the top of the Civil Service as new heads of departments are promoted who are more agreeable to the new government, but if and when this happens, the new heads are chosen from within the body of professionals.


You’ve answered your own question, in the text that you quote.

Section 3 Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 provides that the Minister for the Civil Service has the power to manage the civil service.

The Minister for the Civil Service has responsibilities that are laid down in primary legislation, and so a new law would have to go through Parliament to do away with the role. There’s always a shortage of Parliamentary time, and no government is going to use some of that scarce time when they can just give the role to the Prime Minister with no problem.

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