HC Deb 20 March 1946 vol 420 cc1857-9
39. Mrs. Middleton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now able to state the Government's proposals for future recruitment to His Majesty's Foreign Service; and especially whether it is their intention to establish equality of opportunity in this regard as between men and women.

Mr. Bevin

Recruitment to His Majesty's Foreign Service is now con ducted by the Civil Service Commissioners in accordance with the policy set forth in Command Paper 6567, which deals with recruitment to established posts in the Civil Service as a whole during the Reconstruction period. With regard to the second part of the Question, a Committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Sir Ernest Gowers to examine the admission of women into the Foreign Service, and I have now received their Report, which is unanimous. A copy of it will be placed in the Library. His Majesty's Government have agreed to accept the Report and, on the assumption that a general marriage bar will be imposed, which I shall have the power to waive in exceptional circumstances, we have accepted the Committee's recommendation that women shall be equally eligible with men for admission to the Foreign Service.

The Committee, however, recommend that during the reconstruction period— which is affected by the recruitment of men who have been debarred by war ser vice from normal entry—the numbers of women to be recruited should be limited to a maximum of 10 per cent. of the total admitted from the Reconstruction Com petition as a whole. We have accepted the Committee's recommendation that when making appointments to posts abroad women should be eligible equally with men for appointment to both diplomatic and consular posts. The necessary arrangements are being made by the Civil Service Commissioners to give effect to these recommendations.

I should like to take this opportunity of thanking Sir Ernest Gowers and the Committee for performing this notable service.

Mrs. Middleton

While I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that women in this country and many other parts of the world will welcome the acceptance by the Government of the principle of equality of opportunity for men and women in His Majesty's Foreign Service?

Mr. Bevin

My predecessor and I were guided in this matter by the Committee.

Mr. William Williams

Is there any differentiation in the standard of remuneration of men and women in the Foreign Service?

Mr. Bevin

I am not certain, but, generally speaking, there is a difference in such remuneration in the Civil Service. I cannot say at the moment, however, whether that applies to this case or not.

Mr. Warbey

Is it not a fact that candidates entering the Foreign Service are interviewed by a special board com posed of Foreign Service officials, and that the finding of that board is decisive in the appointment of a candidate?

Mr. Bevin

I should like notice of these questions about appointment, which do not arise out of the Question on the Order Paper.

Mrs. Castle

Can my right hon. Friend say in what circumstances the marriage bar will be operated and will be waived? Does he think the marriage bar is necessary?

Mr. Bevin

This is a very difficult problem. I cannot say in what circum stances it would be operated or waived, but I do know of the difficulty with men sometimes, the other way round.