HC Deb 23 May 1966 vol 729 cc20-1
25. Mr. Dickens

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he proposes to take to broaden the base of entry into the administrative class of the Foreign Office and to the Diplomatic Service.

Mr. M. Stewart

We are very keen to broaden the base of entry to the Diplomatic Service. This will only happen if more good candidates apply. Lack of knowledge of what the Diplomatic Service has to offer has been the greatest problem in the past. During the past year contacts with universities have expanded and I hope that, with wider knowledge of the opportunities, candidates of the right standard will come forward in increasing numbers from all universities.

Mr. Dickens

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the proportion of the intake from public schools and from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge of some 75 per cent. of the total since 1945 is unsatisfactorily high? Will he give an assurance that in each of the next five years he can cut down intake from these sources to not more than one-third in each year, to encourage applications from other sources?

Mr. Stewart

I think my hon. Friend will agree that we must have regard to trying to recruit people best fitted for the job. [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I think the trouble has been that it has been widely believed in the past that only candidates from the older universities would be successful, and that, therefore, there was an unwillingness among candidates from the newer universities. As he knows, I have been striving to break that vicious circle by increasing our contacts with the newer universities, and I hope and believe that we shall have an increased number of applications from the newer universities and be able, thereby, to get an intake which is both of the right quality and more representative of the nation as a whole.

Mrs. Renée Short

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how many candid lies came forward during the last five years from the older—provincial universities to the Foreign Office?

Mr. Stewart

Not without notice, I am afraid.

Mr. G. Campbell

While widening the field of applicants, as the right hon. Gentleman has said he will, will he none the less make sure that the best candidates among those who come forward get accepted into the Service?

Mr. M. Stewart

It is our aim to accept the people who are really fitted for the job, and the best among those who apply. But it is not a healthy state of affairs if, with the growing number of universities in the country, it is not realised in some of those universities what are the opportunities in the Foreign Service.