HC Deb 06 June 1930 vol 239 cc2639-42

With the permission of the House, I wish now to raise the matter to which I drew attention at Question time several weeks ago, namely, the question of open competitive recruitment to the established Civil Service and its effects, first, upon the promotion prospects of officers already serving, and, secondly, upon the security of tenure of temporary Civil servants. For the information of the House, I should like to begin by describing briefly the structure of the Whitehall side of the Civil Service. At the top there is a class called the administrative class, charged with the general responsibility of administrating the Civil Service. Below that class there is an executive class concerned with the direction of blocks of business. Below that there is the clerical class, which discharges a broad range of clerical functions throughout the Service. Below that there are a class of writing assistants, women engaged upon less important clerical operations, and typing and shorthand typing classes also consisting of women. Finally, at the bottom of the structure, there are some 6,000 temporary Civil servants, men and women, who are liable to dismissal at any time. To each of the main established classes, administrative, executive, clerical and writing assistant, there is direct recruitment of candidates coming straight from the schools. At the same time, there is in each of these classes an acute block of promotion. Executive officers cannot get promoted to the administrative class, clerical officers to the executive class, writing assistants and P-men to the clerical class, and so on, or cannot be promoted in anything like the numbers that would be possible but for the fact of this direct entry of boys and girls from school to each of the main established classes.

The House will readily understand the feelings of men and women, public servants, who, after anything up to 20 and 25 years of loyal service, find that vacancies occurring in the class above which they could adequately fill, are denied to them and are reserved to be filled by youngsters coming direct from school, who have to be trained in the work by the very men who are denied promotion to the vacancies. Bad as the effect is upon the promotion prospects of existing Civil servants, the House will understand at once that wherever you get an acute block in promotion, with the result that men and women say, "It does not matter how hard we work or how faithfully we do our job, for we are not likely to be promoted," you get an instinctive tendency to slack off. Hope is a necessary spur to human ambition, and where the possibility of hope is destroyed or minimised because of outside recruitment, its effect on the energy and moral of the service is thoroughly bad.

There is another fact. At the bottom of the Whitehall structure there are some 6,000 men and women, temporary civil servants, who are liable to dismissal at any time. If when vacancies occur in the established grades an existing officer were promoted from the grade below, by the time you reached the bottom of the structure you would create a vacancy which could be utilised to give security of tenure to one of the temporary civil servants. In the last few years we have brought in no fewer than 5,000 recruits from the schools to the established grades of the Civil Service. We have imported 130 to the executive class, we have brought in 2,158 to the clerical class, and 2,654 to the writing assistant class. That is a total of 4,942 during the last few years. If those vacancies had been utilised to give promotion to existing civil servants, and then when you came to the lowest classes the vacancies had been utilised to give security of tenure to the temporary staff, five-sixths of the existing temporary civil servants could now have been given complete security of tenure and could have had removed from them that fear of dismissal which perpetually hangs over them like a knife.

When I raised the question of the dismissal of temporary staff I received two replies from the Minister. One was that the dismissals had been more apparent than real—that while a number of dismissals had taken place, in most cases the individuals had subsequently been brought back to other positions. The second reply was that it was necessary, in order to preserve reasonable age grouping in the various classes, to have recourse to open recruitment direct from the schools. The House will remember the classic case of the hundred dismissals from Kew. In that case 100 temporary civil servants were dismissed and within six weeks the Ministry of Labour found it necessary, having dismissed 100 men and women, to recruit 100 men and women, and the Ministry has since had to recruit a further hundred in order to carry on the requirements of the Department. Those men and women were dismissed, primarily because the Ministry of Labour had not given them security of tenure by utilising vacancies in the way I have suggested.

What happened to those 100 men and women? They were sent, in most cases, to positions elsewhere in the Service—largely in the taxes offices throughout the country. The Minister of Labour was able to "get away with it" in this House by assuring the House that the men had been found other occupations. I have here a return from a very large number of temporary civil servants who have undergone this process of dismissal and subsequent re-employment, and the periods during which they had been out of work, at the end of one engagement and the beginning of another, vary from six months to twelve months. It is wrong from the public point of view that men in the Service should endure these long spells of unemployment when they could be given security of tenure in the way I have described. The argument about age grouping also rests on a complete misunderstanding.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present

The House was adjourned at Seventeen Minutes after Three of the Clock until Tuesday, 17th June, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of this day.