HC Deb 22 March 1928 vol 215 cc551-2

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the heads of His Majesty's embassies or legations abroad entered the Diplomatic Service, the Foreign Office, or the Civil Service by open competitive examination; how many entered by examination restricted to a nominated or selected group; and how many of the latter were sons of working-class parents?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Godfrey Locker-Lampson)

All the existing heads of His Majesty's missions abroad, with the exception of three who were appointed direct to their present posts from outside the service, entered the Diplomatic Service, Foreign Office or Consular Service, after an examination in which they had received nominations to compete. So far as I am aware, none of these officers comes within the category to which I understand the hon. Member to refer in the last part of her question.


In that connection, may I ask whether the Nomination Board in selecting candidates for this examination rule out the sons of working-class parents?


Oh, no, certainly not. The business of the Board is to choose the best man from whatever class he may come.


Is it the fact that no sons of working-class parents have ever been chosen for these posts?


I made an inquiry this morning, and I find that at the moment the First Secretary of a Legation is the son of an engine driver.


Is it not also the fact that from time to time there have been members of the party opposite on the Board of Selection, including the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes), who is no doubt well aware of the qualifications required.


That is perfectly true, and last year we had the advantage of the presence of the hon. Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton).


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the Assistant Under-Secretaries of State, Counsellors, First Secretaries of the Foreign Office, heads of Embassies, Legations, or missions abroad entered the Foreign Office or Diplomatic Service at a time when an income qualification was required; and how many of those holding these posts entered the service after such income qualification ceased to be required?


The income qualification never applied to the Foreign Office, which was distinct from the Diplomatic Service up to 1919, when the income qualification for the latter service was abolished. Of the officers now serving at the Foreign Office in the categories referred to in the hon. Member's question, seven were originally appointed to the Diplomatic Service and the income qualification therefore applied to them when they entered it. Of the 42 officers now serving as heads of missions abroad, 25 were originally appointed to the Diplomatic Service with an income qualification. Of the remaining 17, six were appointed from outside the Diplomatic Service as heads of missions since the 1st of January, 1919, without any income qualification, and 11 were originally appointed to the Foreign Office, also without any such qualification.