Sir Digby Jones was in the Government for a year, as part of Gordon Brown's attempt to create a "government of all the talents". He came away with quite a strong impression that the Civil Service isn't up to scratch:
"Ex-trade minister Lord Digby Jones says he was "amazed" to discover how many civil servants "deserved the sack".
He told a committee of MPs he thought the civil service could "frankly... be done with half as many" people.
The ex-CBI chief described being a junior minister as "one of the most dehumanising and depersonalising experiences" anyone could have."
The Civil Service is now a huge organisation, with more than 520,000 civil servants this year, and questions have to be asked about whether the collegiate way it is organised really works. Ministers are responsible for the results their department produces but can't freely fire Civil Servants. That strange, theoretical combination of complete responsibility and limited authority doesn't work. No one takes responsibility when things go wrong.
This is one more reason why we need to - as well as trying again to reform the Civil Service - break up public service monopolies and start to make public services directly accountable to ordinary people. We can also reduce overstaffing and save taxpayers' money.