HC Deb 09 November 1955 vol 545 cc1847-9
45. Mr. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that, out of the 11 persons appointed recently to the new posts of Regional Directors of Civil Defence in England and Wales, 10 are high-ranking military officers, and that only three of the 11 have had previous close connection with Civil Defence; and whether he will issue an instruction that when making appointments of a similar nature in the future, consideration should be given to the work, knowledge, and experience of those actually performing the duties required for the new appointments before appointing military personnel.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

I have been asked to reply.

These appointments were made on the recommendation of an impartial board presided over, at the request of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary, by the First Civil Service Commissioner. In making the appointments, my right hon. and gallant Friend was satisfied that full weight had been given to the past experience of all the candidates who had been interviewed, but in these particular posts personal qualities are as necessary as past experience, whether that experience has been in the field of Civil Defence or otherwise. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does not think any general instruction is necessary. The public interest requires that the best candidates should be appointed and it is already the normal practice to consider the qualifications of all candidates who are interviewed.

Mr. Lewis

Are we to take it that because these gentlemen happen to be high-ranking military personnel they must, of necessity, be better for this type of appointment than people who have given long years of service in the job? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the last war many people carried out similar jobs without having any high-ranking military titles? Is it not at least fair to give an opportunity to those who have been doing the job, because we are finding too many of these high-ranking military personnel taking positions in Civil Defence?

Mr. Crookshank

I do not think that it is a question of high-ranking military personnel, one way or another. It was a question of an impartial board making recommendations as to who were the most suitable persons.

Mr. Morrison

May I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend is on a fair point, that this is an unduly high proportion of gentlemen with military qualifications? That was not so among the appointments made before the Second World War. There are people experienced in Civil Defence, but, moreover, there are people experienced in local government, apart from Civil Defence, and people experienced in public administration, and there are people of good character, and so on. I really cannot understand why there should be such a high proportion of military people, although I would not exclude them altogether. Might not the matter be reconsidered?

Mr. Crookshank

Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman says, it is quite true that there are a great number of people who have all sorts of experience, but in this case there was a board which interviewed a number of persons concerned and made its recommendations that these people were the best of those who had come forward on that occasion. It may be that a great number of other people did not come forward—I do not know—but, of those interviewed, the board had no doubt about these people being the most suitable for the appointment.

Mr. Morrison

Speaking from memory —I was not concerned in the original appointments just before the Second World War—is it a question of people coming forward? I thought that it was a question of finding the right kind of people. I am not sure that this is a job for a board. I am inclined to think that it is a job for the Secretary of State himself. Ought not there to be a greater degree of selectivity instead of this overwhelming bias in favour of gentlemen of military experience?