A recent review of executive agencies argued there must be a ‘new revolution’ galvanizing the agency model for the 21st century. It identifies contemporary concerns around agencies' role in delivering government goals and their accountability. Originally in 1988 the ‘Next Steps’ agency model was developed precisely to tackle shortcomings in the delivery of central government functions and to extend existing accountability arrangements based on ministerial responsibility. This article examines the contrasting narratives of modernization through agencification under the Conservatives and New Labour, identifying change in the agency story and reflecting on the trajectory of change. It argues that ideas about delivery have altered radically, reflecting New Labour's understanding of the role of the state. There has also been a gradual reassertion of the primacy of ministerial responsibility in the organization of accountability arrangements, reflecting path dependency in the institutional arrangements. In concluding, the future of agencies under New Labour is discussed.