HC Deb 23 November 1939 vol 353 cc1385-7
35. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the volume of unemployment among competent clerical workers and shorthand typists, he will arrange that the temporary staff employed in his Department are appointed on the basis of qualification rather than marriage or other relationship with members of the higher permanent officers; and whether he proposes to take any action in regard to the employment of a governess, a saleswoman, and of daughters and nieces and wives of high permanent officers in his Department?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

The basis of qualification for temporary employment in the Ministry of Pensions is ability to perform the work required to be done. I am satisfied that in no instance has this basis been departed from. From searching inquiries I have made personally, I am also satisfied that in the few instances where relatives of permanent officials have been engaged, experience has proved that their qualifications are fully adequate to fill the posts to which they have been appointed.

Mr. Creech Jones

Is the Minister aware that the facts in question are not in dispute, and will he indicate that in the future such appointments made on the basis of personal relationship will not take place; and, further, will he keep in mind that there are a large number of qualified clerical workers unemployed who are eligible for work of this kind?

Sir W. Womersley

We have engaged over 400 temporary staff. The numbers of those who are related to any officers of the staff are very small indeed. I have given instructions that any new appointments should come before me before being made, but I would like to know from the hon. Gentleman should the relationship of a person to anybody else disqualify that person from working?

Mr. Ammon

Does the Minister suggest that there are not now unemployed competent persons who can do this work better than those who are employed?

Sir W. Womersley

These persons are fully qualified to perform their duties.

Mr. Levy

May I ask whether it would not be grossly unfair—

Mr. Speaker rose

38. Mr. McEntee

asked the Minister of Pensions the age and length of service of the daughter of the deputy-secretary of the Ministry who has been appointed to an executive post; what special qualifications she possesses; whether any increase of pay has been given to her since her appointment; if so, how long after the date of her initial appointment; whether her duties require her to act as personal secretary to her father; and whether it was necessary to transfer an established civil servant from this post in order to accommodate this lady?

Sir W. Womersley

The officer in question is aged 28 years and was appointed on 2nd September, 1939; by education and secretarial experience she was fully qualified for the duties of the post she fills. This is a temporary appointment and, in accordance with the usual custom, she commenced at the minimum salary for her grade. On the satisfactory completion of a month's probation, she was, in accordance with the common practice, graded for pay commensurate with the duties she was performing. Her duties require her to act as personal secre- tary to her father, and my personal investigation reveals that she is carrying out exactly the same duties as her predecessors. As regards the last paragraph in the hon. Member's question, there was no transfer of any established officer to create this vacancy. Her immediate predecessor vacated the post on being selected in the ordinary course for promotion to the rank of a higher executive officer. This carried an increase of salary from £418 per annum to £500, rising to £650. The lady in question is receiving a salary of £200.

Mr. McEntee

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the very grave dissatisfaction that exists in regard to promotions of this kind, whether the statement that he has just given is not a proof that the whole thing is wrong, whether he will take steps to alter this and to make promotions by merit and by service and not by personal relationships to people in power?

Sir W. Womersley

This is not a promotion. This is a purely temporary appointment and will be terminated as soon as circumstances warrant a reduction in staff. We are in this difficult position at the Ministry that in the wide expansion of our work we want all the permanent people we have on the staff to take higher executive posts and for supervising, and, as I said earlier, we have engaged 400 additional staff of a temporary nature. This lady in question is not on the established staff.

Mr. Shinwell

What would the right hon. Gentleman have said if the Labour Government—

Mr. Speaker

We cannot take all the morning on one question.