Civil service salary restrictions will hamper the government’s attempts to raise skill levels in the wake of the West Coast Main Line procurement fiasco, former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has claimed.

He told an Institute for Government debate that “salary had been quite a major obstacle to bringing in people with real private sector experience.

“If we want government to be ade­quately skilled on procurement and private sector contracts then we have got to bring in the experts,” he added.

Former deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine also raised concerns that public sector pay was not competitive.

He said: “We have got to recruit within the marketplace for the people with the skills we need. We cannot do it by training civil servants because it takes too long and they won’t stay in the public sector. Even if we train our civil servants and it works, they will just leave and take em­ploy­ment in the private sector.”