Only two of the 42 permanent secretaries that lead the UK's Civil Service have science or engineering degrees. Two more have degree level numeracy. And the nearest the UK Treasury's policy-making Executive Management Group has to a scientist is one person with a maths degree. (Source: Cabinet Office and Treasury FOI answers)
Yet the seminal 1968 Fulton Report recommended professionalisation of the civil service's cult of the clever (typically Oxbridge) amateur. Apart from recommending training in management (though why is No 10 drafting in top businessmen to bring management acumen to all government departments?) Fulton specifically recommended that scientists and engineers should be given more training and responsibility in management and policy spheres (Chapter 1 para 17).
It is clear that the Civil Service has not developed scientists and engineers to fill the highest levels; and a FOI answer states "There is no strategy or policy that has been pursued by the Civil Service (either at present or in the last five years), to ensure that current and potential permanent secretaries are selected to ensure a certain distribution of academic backgrounds amongst this group."
Two questions remain:
- Why has the Civil Service leadership not implemented the Fulton recommendation on scientists and engineers over the last 40 years?
- What are the consequences of their failure to do so?
Anthony Fitzsimmons is Chairman of Reputability LLP and, with the late Derek Atkins, author of “Rethinking Reputational Risk: How to Manage the Risks that can Ruin Your Business, Your Reputation and You”