HC Deb 06 March 1928 vol 214 cc977-8
Mr. SNOWDEN (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether this morning's published statement, that one of his principal private secretaries is to take up an important post in the Conservative Central Office is correct; whether this has been done with his knowledge and approval; and whether there is any precedent for a civil servant who has acted as a principal private secretary to successive Prime Ministers accepting a responsible position in the headquarters of a political party?


The answer to the first two parts of the question is in the affirmative. I cannot recall any precedent for a civil servant having acted as principal private secretary to successive Prime Ministers in the past, but a civil servant is, of course, at liberty at any time to resign from the service and take up outside work whether commercial, professional, or political in character.


When the Prime Minister was first approached by the chairman of the Conservative Association in regard to the securing of the services of this principal private secretary, did the Prime Minister at that time represent to the chairman of the Conservative Association the impropriety, if not indecency, of a political organisation trying to secure the services of a prominent civil servant receiving a salary from the Crown?


I do not know that I feel called upon to answer these questions. Considering the services, loyal and honourable, which Sir Patrick Gower rendered to the Leader of the Opposition, when the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister, I think they are most ungenerous. The fact with Sir Patrick Gower and with all civil servants who occupy positions of that kind, is that they must consider their future—he has been a private secretary for many years—and it is an open question with them whether they will do better in after life, by leaving the Civil Service or staying in it. I wish to make this point quite clear. I have discussed this matter with Sir Patrick Gower at intervals for the last year or two, and I am quite sure that he has chosen wisely in his own interests to take work other than that of a civil servant.


The Prime Minister has evidently quite misunderstood my question. I made no reflection whatever upon Sir Patrick Gower. I asked the Prime Minister whether, when the chairman of the Conservative Association approached him he—the Prime Minister—made any representation to the chair-Man of the Conservative Association as to the impropriety of trying to secure for political service a civil servant who was supposed to have no partiality in regard to political matters?


Is it in order to put questions in this House concerning the actions of a political party or the internal administration of a political party?


I do not know of anything which calls for my intervention


Is not the precedent required that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb), who, after serving in the Civil Service, became a prominent leader in another party?


There is not the slightest impropriety in the action which Sir Patrick Gower has taken, and I am very glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said about Sir Patrick Gower himself.


If this practice grows, does the Prime Minister consider it altogether desirable that the Civil Service should look to the Conservative party for promotion?