HC Deb 17 February 1944 vol 397 cc335-9
42. Sir Stanley Reed

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can make any statement about the resumption of recruitment to the permanent Civil Service during the reconstruction period.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Anderson)

I will, with the permission of the House, make a statement at the end of Questions.


Sir J. Anderson

The Government have been considering what measures should be taken for recruitment to the Civil Service in the immediate post-war period. During the war there has been very little recruitment to the established Service. All open competitive examinations have been suspended. There are at present 215,000 established civil servants (plus a further 70,000 absent on war service) and many of these are already at or over normal retiring age. The number of established civil servants in April, 1939, was 290,000. As a result, the number of serving established civil servants will be a good deal smaller at the end of the war than it was at the beginning. Whatever form our economy may take after the war, it seems reasonably certain that the complexity of administration will, at any rate for many years, be greater than it was before the war. The established Civil Service will need the substantial reinforcement of a steady flow of young recruits of good educational standards, who will be available to help with the many and difficult problems of reconstruction, and to provide an experienced body of qualified staff in the years to come. After the last war recruitment by open competitive examinations was not resumed until 1925 for the general Administrative class, 1928 for the general Executive class, and 1927 for the general Clerical class. After this war, however, it should be an immediate objective, in the Government's view, to resume normal competitions, at the earliest possible moment, and thus to recruit properly qualified personnel at ages appropriate to entry on a permanent career.

It is the Government's intention that, after the war, everything possible shall be done to assist the establishment in careers of those who have missed their normal opportunity of achieving this as a result of the war, or of their own war service. It appears to the Government only equitable, so far as the Civil Service is concerned, that the main source of recruits in the immediate post-war period should be from those who would have had an opportunity of competing for the Service in the normal course, but for the interruption of the war. For the Administrative, Executive and Clerical classes, this will mean, generally speaking, those who have gone into some form of war service straight from school or university. Recruitment by open competition from this source under conditions which will allow for the interruption of the candidates' education, and concurrent resumption of the normal competitions, will serve very well the main object of securing a steady flow of appropriately qualified personnel during the reconstruction period. Every care must be taken, in making the necessary administrative arrangements, to ensure that men and women who have been with the Forces during the war should be at no disadvantage in competing with civilians, either as a result of the particular form their war service may have taken, or because their demobilisation may, in some cases, take place rather late. Any arrangements made for recruitment to the Civil Service immediately after the war should ensure that generous treatment is given to suitable candidates from the Forces. During the whole of the reconstruction period, the work of the Civil Service must be carried on, probably under very severe pressure. The Government consider that arrangements will be needed for the retention of some of the existing temporary staff who are too old to be eligible for the open competitions, particularly staff who have shown special aptitude for the work of administration and who have acquired valuable experience of the Government service. No temporary staff should, however, be retained in the Civil Service unless their quality is sufficiently high and their retention plainly in the public interest.

Questions of the kind referred to in this statement are appropriate for discussion with Civil Service staff representatives through the Whitley machinery. The Government have, accordingly, referred the matter to the National Whitley Council, with a request that specific proposals, which it is hoped can be agreed between the two Sides of the Council, should be submitted to them as soon as possible. Further statements will be made in due course as proposals are submitted by the Council and considered by the Government. Statements will also be made on other matters affecting the post-war Civil Service. As regards recruitment to the Foreign Service a statement will be made shortly by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Sir H. Williams

Will there be an opportunity of debating this matter, having regard to the fact that some of us hold the view that the Civil Service could be run with a much smaller personnel and should be completely overhauled?

Sir J. Anderson

I should have thought that many opportunities present themselves in the ordinary course.

Mr. Woodburn

Has the Committee on the training of civil servants yet presented its report, and cannot the organisation for the training of civil servants be made use of to help those in the temporary Civil Service to obtain positions on the permanent establishment?

Sir J. Anderson

The second part of the question must wait until the report is available. I have not got it yet but I expect to have it very soon.

Mr. Bellenger

May I ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he is aware that the question of recruitment for the Fighting Services is as urgent as for the Civil Service, and are the Government taking steps to consider that matter in the same way that they are apparently doing for the recruitment of the Civil Service?

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

That question should be put on the Paper.

Mr. McEntee

Are any steps being taken now in conjunction with the Service Ministers to give opportunities to those who are now serving to qualify for the examinations which will take place after the war?

Sir J. Anderson

Any question about educational facilities available to serving men should be addressed to the appropriate Ministers. I can only say that in the provisions for recruitment for the Civil Service every care will be taken to see that due allowance is made for the interruption of normal education.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

Will my right hon. Friend undertake that a definite preference will be given to men and women who have served in the Armed Forces?

Sir J. Anderson

I do not think I need add anything, on that point, to the statement I have made. I have made it quite clear that special consideration will be given, subject to suitability, to candidates who have been in the Fighting Services.

Mrs. Cazalet Keir

When men and women are recruited for the Civil Service after the war, will my right hon. Friend see that equal pay is given for equal work?

Sir J. Anderson

That is a different question.

Major Thorneycroft

Will a statement in more or less similar terms be made with regard to recruitment and training for the local government service?

Sir J. Anderson

No, that is a separate matter altogether.

Mr. Colegate

Will there be reconsideration of the retiring age of civil servants, which was fixed 60 or 70 years ago?

Mr. Speaker

That has nothing to do with the question.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton Pownall

As educational facilities are now available to prisoners of war in Germany, will my right hon. Friend not overlook giving such opportunities to these men as there are?

Sir J. Anderson

That certainly will not be overlooked.