§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of Command Paper No. 3638 on the Civil Service.After the excitement of the debate which has occupied the House for the last few days, and which has engaged the interest and passions of very many hon. Members of widely differing views, we are turning today to a debate which many would regard as less interesting, and which some may even find dull. But it is an extremely important debate for us because we shall be discussing one of the great institutions of the country—an institution which, like so many others, is now passing through a period of rapid and constructive modernisation.
The Fulton Report takes its place in the succession of searching and authoritative inquiries of the past four years, inquiries which have covered, for example, trade unions and employers' associations, on which the Government will be publishing a White Paper in the near future, local government in England and Scotland—the first major study since the reforms of the 1890s—and now we are proceeding to survey the working of the Constitution of the United Kingdom and its constituent parts. In a wider sense, too, the Fulton Report follows detailed studies of major industries-followed by action—and in a yet different sense, the continuing work of the Law Commissions, under which the whole of our Statute Law is being reviewed and modernised.
I have left out of the account, in saying this, innumerable studies and proposals for reform, such as the Seebohm Report on Personal Social Services, and the Government's Green Paper on Reorganisation of the National Health Service. In a very real sense, the Fulton Report deals with the modernisation of the institution on whose efficiency, expertise and, indeed, humanity, the success of almost every effort in our modernisation depends to so great an extent. But it is more than that. It is a study in depth of the work and working lives of over 400,000 of our fellow citizens. The merit of the Fulton Report is its clear recommendation that 1543 the efficiency of the instrument of the Civil Service as a whole depends, more than anything, on looking at individuals and particularly at the relationship between the individual and the job.
It is five months since the Report was published, and I regret that it has not been possible to have this debate earlier—the House, I think, understands the reasons. Hon. Members will recall that in my statement to the House on the day of publication I expressed the gratitude of the House to Lord Fulton and his colleagues, including the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon). As I told the House then, the Government accepted three major recommendations and undertook to announce decisions on the remainder of the recommendations in due course, following full discussions with those concerned, including, particularly, the Civil Service Staff Associations.
Today provides an opportunity to give a brief progress report on what is being done about the recommendations which have been accepted, and to review some of the other recommendations, and state our attitudes to them—not to all of them because some very difficult and complicated problems have been set and we have to find, after appropriate consultation, the right way to clothe the very general principles of the Report with the detailed methods of application. A great deal is happening, and with exemplary speed.
I see the right hon. Member for Hands-worth has now entered the Chamber. I was, on behalf of us all, paying tribute to him and his colleagues for the work that they did on the Fulton Report—work which is shown by the load of documents under which he has staggered into the Chamber.
My noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal, who is working closely with the officials concerned, has told me that he is greatly impressed by the energy and enthusiasm with which the work I have described is being tackled, under the leadership of Sir William Armstrong, Head of the Civil Service, and Permanent Secretary of the Civil Service Department.
1544 Clearly, the Civil Service welcomes the opportunity to look critically at its organisation and methods of working. Before the Civil Service Department formally came into existence the major recommendations of Fulton on recruitment, structure, training, and personnel management, were being studied and plans being laid for their implementation, in consultation with other Departments and the national staff side. The structure of the new Department and its creation have been subjected to systematic analysis by the most modern methods. There is no doubt at all in my mind that the Civil Service, both Departments and the staff side alike, is ready and enthusiastic to take part in a process of development and change, for which the Fulton Report provides this new impetus.
Parts of the Report, and especially the criticisms of its first chapter, have come in for heavy fire, both within the Service and outside. Hon. Members will have read the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate in another place and many other forcefully expressed comments on this aspect of the Report. But my strong impression is that the Service as a whole wants not to spend time arguing over ground, but to get on to positive plans for the future. I hope that our debate today will take the same course.
One of the central themes of the Report relates to the resources available for the administration of the country and most of the recommendations relate to better use of those resources. In a few moments, I will come to the criticism frequently made in the House and elsewhere about the size of the Civil Service, but, before doing so, I should draw attention to the fact that the Civil Service in recent years—indeed, in its whole lifetime—has constantly faced the creation of new and exacting tasks, and this affects not only the number of civil servants, but, as the Report frankly states, the quality of management in the Civil Service.
In my Public Accounts Committee days, and particularly in debates on public expenditure, I frequently found occasion to quote Disraeli's famous statement that "expenditure depends on policy". So, of course, does the size of the Civil Service—in numbers and in the quality required and in the adaptability necessary for taking on new tasks which to the Civil 1545 Service of only a generation ago would have appeared wholly unaccustomed and, in some cases, even alien.
This imposition of new tasks has been the result of deliberate policy decisions of successive Governments of all parties, which, however controversial in individual cases, have been the response of successive Governments to changes in the environment and in the types of problem, economic and social and in many other fields, which the country is facing.
It is worth while drawing attention to the judgment of the management consultancy team whose report was published as Volume II of the Fulton Committee's Report last June, namely, that the numbers of staff have grown more slowly than the tasks imposed upon them. Because of the need to limit the growth of the Civil Service and because of competition, particularly for skilled manpower, it is not surprising that the Committee should have reported that, in the main, the new manpower resources which the Civil Service has been able to deploy have, in the past, gone to manning new operational tasks at the expense of the management of the Civil Service itself.
The Committee has emphasised, I think rightly, the need for a higher standard of skill and expertise, and this means training. But it means more than training: it means more resources being deployed on the job of management within and on the Civil Service. Success in fulfilling this Fulton requirement, as the Committee itself says, should lead to the more economical use of manpower.
At this point, I should report on what has been done and is being done in fulfilment of the undertaking which I gave the House on 16th January, in Cmnd. 3515, paragraph 53, about limiting the size of the Civil Service in this current financial year. Such an aim has been held out by successive Governments and rarely achieved. After falling from April, 1949, to April, 1958—and, even allowing for the fact that 7,000 Atomic Energy Authority employees were transferred to the newly-created Authority, there was still a substantial fall steadily from 1949 to 1958—the numbers of the Civil Service have risen in each year without intermission from 1958 to the present time.
Under strong pressure from the Treasury, now the Civil Service Depart- 1546 ment, following my announcement last January, Government Departments have taken strong steps to prevent their staff numbers by next April rising above the number for last April of 474,000—that is, non-industrial staff outside the Post Office. The exercise has resulted in a net reduction of 11,000 in the estimated staff requirements of Departments for next year—that is, in what would have been the growth factor over this year. Increases in some Departments—for example, Social Security and Employment and Productivity—have been offset by decreases in other Departments. On 1st October, the total numbers improved to slightly less than on 1st April, and it looks as though the figure for next April will be marginally below last April's estimate—and when I say "estimate", I mean the figures presented to the House with the Estimate.
The total number of industrial staff—the figures which I have been giving have been in respect of non-industrial staff—excluding the Post Office, has fallen by about 8,000 compared with the provision published in the Estimates a few months ago.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
Could the Prime Minister tell us by how much the non-industrial Civil Service is under establishment at the moment, and by how much he anticipates it will be under establishment in April next year?
§ The Prime Minister
Very little. But it is under establishment to some extent, and this has had an effect on the figures. I should like to look up the figures. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General could answer that point this evening.
As the House will recall, I undertook on 13th February to consider whether anything could be done to include in explanatory memoranda on Government Bills estimates of the effects of those Bills on the size of the Civil Service. This was suggested to us by the Opposition. This has always, since October, 1964, been the practice in relation to Cabinet papers for proposals which affect not only expenditure, but staff. I have decided that in future memoranda accompanying Government Bills should include forecasts of any changes, or postponement of changes, in the non-industrial 1547 and industrial staff in Government Departments which are expected to result from a Bill. In addition, the memoranda should, if necessary, give forecasts of any expected changes in manpower requirement in the public sector as a whole.
I am sure that the House will welcome those arrangements for making available to it as much information as possible about likely manpower effects of Bills in advance of debates on those Bills. I emphasise that it will not be easy to make precise forecasts. What we can do is to give the best possible estimate.
§ Mr. R. F. H. Dobson (Bristol, North-East)
Does my right hon. Friend mean that that will happen while Bills are passing through the House, or when they become law?
§ The Prime Minister
I am referring to the publication of explanatory memoranda as soon as a Bill is published. The figure in it will be the best possible estimate of what the ultimate expansion in Government service employment will be as the result of that Bill.
The Government hope that the review of Civil Service manpower which is going forward under the leadership of Sir Robert Bellinger will find ways in which some of the tasks of the Civil Service can be reduced with subsequent savings in manpower. Sir Robert and his colleagues are already hard at work, although it may well prove that serious economies may be dependent on streamlining the machinery of financial accountability in Departments.
As one who is dedicated to economy in administration in the public service, I am aware of the strong case for streamlining in this way. The former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and its present Chairman are in their place in the House. I recognise the need for satisfying the Public Accounts Committee that, case by case, this can be done in a way which ensures effective control of expenditure and does not inhibit the members of that most important Select Committee in the discharge of its duties. In pursuance of the Bellinger inquiries, already contact has been made with the Public Accounts Committee so that, at the proper time, it can express an opinion and give not only the Govern- 1548 ment, but the House, advice on any suggestion which may be put forward.
I come to the three main recommendations which the Government have already accepted. The first is the setting up of the new Civil Service Department and the integration of the Civil Service Commission with it. The Minister for the Civil Service Order, 1968, which was laid before the House on 16th October, provided the formal basis for the establishment of the new Department and it came into existence on 1st November. As the Fulton Committee recommended, the Civil Service Commission is being integrated into the Civil Service Department and following the advice of the Fulton Report, we are ensuring that the Civil Service Commissioners shall continue to be independent in all matters relating to the selection of individuals. This independence derives from Civil Service Orders in Council, and the Commissioners are appointed by Order in Council. These arrangements will continue. The Commissioners will continue to make their own annual report to the Crown.
However, at the same time, the closer association of recruitment with personnel management and training, which is rightly recommended in the Report, is being achieved in two ways. The Commissioners and their staff have become members of the new Department, and the First Commissioner has also become deputy secretary in the new Department responsible for recruitment.
In matters of recruitment policy he is responsible to Ministers in the normal way. He and his staff are working closely together with those in the Department responsible for personnel management and training. In matters of selection—that is, when acting as Commissioners considering individual cases—they will continue to have exactly the same independence as they had before.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
Will my right hon. Friend explain the relationship between the personnel side and the new Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Service? Will they equally be in charge of the personnel side of all the external services?
§ The Prime Minister
No. I think, as my hon. Friend knows, that the Diplomatic Service is separate. It has its own 1549 rules which have recently been surveyed. My hon. Friend will also be aware that, parallel with the Bellinger inquiries to which I have referred, there is an inquiry under Sir Val Duncan which is looking into the whole question of manning of overseas posts to see if economies are possible, to find the best deployment of overseas economic staff, and—to grind an axe which we all want to grind—to see that there is the greatest co-operation on the economic and commercial side. We have not yet had the report from Sir Val Duncan on this matter.
The second recommendation we have already accepted is the setting up of a Civil Service College. As the House knows, Civil Service training has expanded considerably, both at the centre and in the different Departments in recent years. In particular, the Centre for Administrative Studies has developed successfully, but we need to go a good deal further and faster. The Civil Service college, as the Committee recommended, will be the centre and focus for training in the Civil Service and the teachers it will attract will provide a centre for research into training needs and methods, and in the study of public administration itself.
At this point I refer to the argument put forward in the public debate following the Fulton Report—I think that some hon. Members may wish to support this view—that the college will be an unnecessary duplication of the work of the universities and business schools and, by segregating civil servants, will add to rather than break down the separation of the civil servants from the rest of the community. My answer to that criticism is this. First, as far as the universities and business schools are concerned, we are already making use of courses there and, as Civil Service training expands, we shall make more use of them. Secondly, we do not intend the college to be cut off from the community, nor its students to be cut off from those in other spheres of life from whom civil servants can learn a great deal, and who, in turn, will learn a good deal from Civil Service trainees.
So, as the Committee proposed, we intend to make places on Civil Service training courses available to those from local government, nationalised and private industry and other employments 1550 who can make good use of them. As an experiment, a small number of places was offered to local government this year; and this has been regarded as so successful that an increased offer is being made in the training year that has just started. We hope to stimulate the movement both of outside experts and of civil servants between the college and other centres where public administration is studied, to the benefit of both parties and of the subject itself.
Exactly what will be needed in the way of college facilities is not yet clear. We are trying at first to analyse the training needs of the Service and different parts of the Service before final decisions can be taken. For this reason and because we must work within the tight financial ceilings in force, we do not propose to establish the college immediately but I shall inform the House of likely developments.
Recognising that the total amount of college training will be very great, three centres may be needed, a non-residential centre in London, a residential centre close to London, and a second centre which, we hope, would be in one of the regions. We propose to make an early start by using what so far has been the Civil Defence College at Sunningdale as the first residential centre for the time being. Meanwhile, management training is being expanded as quickly as the available resources permit and along lines consistent with the curricula which we intend the college to adopt when it is established.
In 1968–69, nearly 80 per cent. more central Civil Service management training will be provided than in 1967–68. We hope that resources will allow further expansion to take place in 1969–70. This year the opportunity is also being taken to experiment with the length and content of certain courses; in particular, the 20-week course at the Centre for Administrative Studies is being lengthened.
In my statement in June I said that we intended to make a reality of regional training, particularly on entry into the Service. Since then I have had a report that about 320,000 civil servants, 68 per cent. of the whole Service, are working outside London in regional or local offices and a sample of some of the 1551 Departments with large regional organisations suggests that over 80 per cent. of their staff have past or present experience of working outside London. A very high proportion of these are in the non-administrative grades and on my instructions Departments are working out what can be done to increase the proportion of those not at present designated as administrators who can get more experience outside Whitehall.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
In the siting for the Civil Service College, does what my right hon. Friend said rule out the possibility of using Greenwich?
§ The Prime Minister
It does not rule it out. This was a suggestion which, I think, I caused to be put to the Committee while it was sitting, as I knew that it was interested. Of course, it would be ideal, but there are other claims on Greenwich. We have not yet come to a decision about the siting, but, meanwhile, we are making use of the former Civil Defence Training College at Sunningdale.
The third recommendation accepted by the Government in general—
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
Before the Prime Minister leaves the question of the Civil Service College, may I ask whether the Government have formed any view on the recommendation in paragraph 102 that the college should also have research functions and conduct research into the problems of administering the machinery of government?
§ The Prime Minister
The answer to that question is, very clearly, yes. I know that I was speaking rather quickly and I was interrupted once or twice, but I sought to make that point a few moments ago. I also referred to the transfer of outside experts to the Civil Service college and from the college to outside centres. It is intended that it shall be a major centre of research for major studies, but particularly for the functions and needs of the Civil Service itself. We thought that was one of the very many useful recommendations and we support it.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
When the Prime Minister speaks about 1552 regional training, does he include Scotland and Wales among the regions?
§ The Prime Minister
I know the hon. Member is obviously very keen that we should consider Wales in this matter. Certainly, I had in mind that Wales, Scotland, and regions of England would all be contained in the examination we shall be making of the siting of the second residential centre. I am delighted to hear from the hon. Member on this point, because I rather had the impression that he wanted to cut himself off from us and not to join with us in this important matter.
The third basic recommendation which was accepted by the Government in June relates to the unified grading structure, the abolition of the class system in the Civil Service. This work is going ahead, although hon. Members will recognise that, if it is to be done thoroughly, basing the whole structure on a detailed examination of all groups, their grading and pay scales, using the method of job evaluation, it will take a very considerable time. The first step is to assemble the information about the various forms of common grading used by the Civil Service in other countries and also in large commercial organisations in Britain.
Sir William Armstrong recently took a team, including the Secretary-General of the National Staff Side, to look at Canadian and United States systems. Following this and the collection of other information, we intend to conduct a pilot study within our own Civil Service. I repeat that the Government means business about this recommendation as well as others I have mentioned. We intend to do this thoroughly in full consultation with the staff side every step of the way.
I have concentrated on the three main recommendations, but I wish to refer to others in the Report. There are a great number of them. That of itself is a tribute to the thoroughness with which the work has been done. I shall not deal with them all, but I will pick out a few. Some of the others can be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General later this afternoon.
First, on recruitment, the Fulton Committee, by a small majority, proposed that Method I, entry by written examination, should continue, while the minority 1553 proposed its abolition. We were already committed, in any case, to the use of Method I next year, so we are not involved with the decision for this coming year, but so that we can take a decision for the future the universities are being asked for their views on Method I and these will be taken into account so that we can make a decision in good time for future years.
On Method II, the House will recall that, on 24th October, I announced the acceptance of the Fulton recommendation that an inquiry should be held into the processes used for selection under Method II and also into ways of speeding up recruitment. Two separate inquiries have been set up on these two matters and are already at work.
Another recommendation of the Committee—also a majority recommendation—was that the selection of administrators should be deliberately biased in favour of those whose university studies have been in what has been a "relevant" subject. The Government, after very careful consideration, have decided not to proceed on these lines. It was necessary to decide quickly. I wish that we could have heard the views of hon. Members in this debate, but we had to decide quickly so that prospective candidates and their universities could know where they stood. It was essential to make a decision on this for the guidance also of the Method II inquiry.
I will not weary the House with all the reasons for the decision, though if hon. Members wish—there may well be two views on this in the House—my right hon. Friend can go into them in greater detail. However, one of the main reasons is that to accept the recommendation would close to the Civil Service a very wide field of possible candidates who have started or who may in future start on their chosen university courses long before they had decided that they wanted to become civil servants, and who had chosen those courses perhaps for other reasons, perhaps non-vocational reasons. Most of us would agree with the Committee, however, in what it was trying to achieve with this recommendation, even if we cannot go all the way with it.
This is why we are placing much more emphasis on "relevant" training after 1554 selection and that is why, in our selection process, we are aiming, with this emphasis on the individual, to seek out and identify not a group of widely varying students with the same relevant academic qualifications, but a wide range of entrants, each of whom, by his personal qualities, academic or otherwise, is a "relevant" man or woman.
I have asked my right hon. friend to deal this evening with all the recommendations relating to establishment, terms of service, matters affecting staff consultation and the role of the Civil Service associations.
Other recommendations, principally to be found in Chapter 5 of the Report, relate to the organisation of Civil Service work. These include the Committee's proposals for introducing accountable management, improved management services, extending the use of integrated teams of specialists and administrators, establishing planning units, and they include, also, the proposal for strengthening the Civil Service management in individual departments and linking these officers with the Civil Service Department itself.
I cannot announce decisions on these recommendations today, but a great deal of work is going on, because the Government recognise, as the Committee emphasised, that Chapter 5, containing these recommendations, is one of the most important parts of the Report. Indeed, a great deal of the rest of the Report, including job evaluation and the grading structure, will depend to a considerable extent on the progress made in organisation in the field covered by Chapter 5.
The House will recognise the relevance of this part of the Committee's work to another subject which is only briefly touched on by Fulton, the machinery of government. Since what I have said today can only be in the nature of a very first interim report, the House should know that, in view of the great public interest in Fulton—which may be a specialist interest, but is, nevertheless, a very important interest—and, in view of the interest in the follow up action to Fulton and the interest in participation by the Civil Service as a whole in what is being done with every aspect of Civil Service management, I have approved a proposal by the Department that it should 1555 regularly publish progress reports in connection with the Fulton recommendations and more widely.
We shall need to consider later what is further needed. There Were important recommendations on that in the Report and we shall have to decide what is the best way of getting this constant examination going on. These reports will, of course, be made available to hon. Members.
The Committee said that its terms of reference excluded one most important subject, the machinery of government, and hoped that this might be reviewed, but it commented on one particular aspect, the possible scope for hiving off responsibilities from Government Departments to autonomous public boards and called for an early and thorough review of this question.
Hiving off is a process which has been examined by successive Governments. I have already referred, when I gave some statistics, to one example of hiving off—the Atomic Energy Authority employees of the Government in 1954. The House has also, in the past few days, given a unanimous Second Reading to the Post Office Bill, one of the greatest examples of the hiving-off process. But the early and thorough review for which the Committee called is already in progress. There is a number of possible areas for examination, but I should not anticipate today what might come out of this review.
Of course, we must set off against the administrative advantages of hiving off—
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
Do I understand then that the Prime Minister is saying that the Government already have a review in hand and that they are not going for a separate review, as the Committee asked, on hiving off?
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, we are making a separate review ourselves. This should be the most useful thing. I do not rule out, when we have the inter-Departmental and intra-Departmental review of this, the possibility of going to outside experts in this matter; and there is nothing to prevent Sir Robert Bellinger from making suggestions for 1556 hiving-off in a minor way as part of his recommendations.
Having expressed a desire to see progress in this direction, however, we must set off against the administrative advantages of hiving-off the problems of Parliamentary accountability, not only in financial terms but in terms of the ability of hon. Members to put down Questions affecting the interests of their constituents and, indeed, wider matters. The Fulton Committee was unable to examine the broader question of the central machinery of government. I have already gone on a fairly long time, but it would be wrong for me to sit down without saying a little more on certain questions of the machinery of government, which, although outside the Fulton terms of reference, bear markedly on the work of the Civil Service which is covered by the Fulton Committee.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Is my right hon. Friend prepared to say anything about getting rid of unnecessary secrecy or of inquiring into unnecessary secrecy both in policy-making and in administration?
§ The Prime Minister
I have studied reports on this question. That might be the point which my hon. Friend might make some suggestions on today, but it is one which I would rather leave to my right hon. Friend to take up, though as yet I do not think that she will have much more to say on it than I have just said.
Changes in the central machinery of government, which go on all the time under every Government, reflect, or should reflect, the changing nature of the problems facing the country and the Government, though, inevitably, they also reflect the administrative ideas and working methods of the Prime Minister of the day, whoever he may be, and his colleagues. For example, even if they had been dealing with almost exactly the same problems at the same time, Lloyd George would have had very different ideas on government machinery and working than, say, Clem Attlee. Or, if they had been working and living at the same time, Baldwin would have had very different ideas from those of Gladstone or Peel. Thus, because they do reflect the views of Governments, quite apart 1557 from the problems with which they must deal questions of the machinery of government and organisation, even the existence of particular Departments, inevitably become a matter of controversy, for example, between Government and Opposition, but also non-politically between hon. Members even within the same party and between experts in administration studying all these problems.
To take one example, hon. Members on both sides of the House and irrespective of party can and do feel strongly about where the responsibility should lie between two Departments for the education of mentally handicapped children, a subject which has been repeatedly brought up with great urgency at Question Time. I hope to be able finally to resolve that question in time for an announcement next week.
These are not easy questions to decide.
Again—here I am not talking about anything which is, I think, politically controversial—the House will remember that there have been many discussions about a controversial decision of my own to abolish the Ministry of Aviation and transfer the civil aviation—that is, the airline and airport—responsibility of that Ministry to the Board of Trade, which was already responsible for shipping and tourism, and to transfer the aircraft production industry side to the Ministry of Technology, which was already responsible for the closely associated industries of engineering and electronics, as well as being the Department with the principal responsibility for civil research and development.
I thought that this division was right, but there was a great deal of argument and a great deal to be said on both sides. The vertical school of thought, understandably, suggested that the Department responsible for airline and aircraft sales should also be responsible for the design of aircraft and for meeting the orders placed for them by the airlines. But the horizontal school emphasised the close relationship between civil aviation, on the one hand, and shipping, tourism and, indeed, international commercial negotiation, on the other, already in the Board of Trade, as well as the need for grouping the relevant industries together—electronics, aircraft—particularly at a time 1558 when aircraft firms were becoming diversified.
Then we had the same argument again, with the same horizontal/vertical division, over the decision to transfer shipbuilding to join marine and other engineering in the Ministry of Technology, while leaving shipping itself in the Board of Trade. There was a great deal to be said on both sides in this.
Speaking more broadly, there is an important school of thought which supports the creation of large federal Departments. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made this point in his speech at Blackpool. For my part, I agree very much with the federal concept. Since 1964, we have pressed on with what right hon. Members opposite started in the creation of the Ministry of Defence, originally federal in organisation but now becoming more and more an integrated defence unit.
We have united, first, the Colonial Office with the Commonwealth Office. Our predecessors had a single Minister here, but there were two separate Departments and they were about to amalgamate them, I think. Now, more recently, we merged the combined Commonwealth Office with the Foreign Office, which was an historic event in the evolution of the machinery of government. At almost the same time—this autumn—the new Department of Health and Social Security was set up under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, bringing together two closely related but previously separate Departments and providing, through the co-ordinating responsibilities of my right hon. Friend, a greater degree of co-ordination with the other Departments having responsibilities in this field.
I know that there are other areas of machinery of government where right hon. Gentlemen have different views; and we shall no doubt hear them expressed again, perhaps today. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will raise in the future, as he has in the past, the question of our economic machinery.
I should just like to express to the House, to put this beyond doubt, my very clear view—despite, I know, a very deep difference between us on this—that 1559 the creation of the Department of Economic Affairs, with its emphasis on economic growth and on regional development, going far beyond the question of employment in development areas, which is so successfully dealt with by the President of the Board of Trade, and its responsibility for co-ordinating industrial efficiency, which must be the very basis of our economic success, was right and is right, and that more particularly the conduct of that Department by my right hon. Friend and his predecessors has justifid its existence as a permanent, continuing and essential part in the machinery of modern government. But I still understand that I have not convinced the right hon. Gentleman of that.
Perhaps I might refer to another proposal in the field of machinery of government made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when he aired his ideas recently for a very much smaller Cabinet either than the present one or the Cabinet of our immediate predecessors, which was exactly the same size as the present one.
I should like to tell the House here that on a number of occasions over the past four years I have very seriously considered this idea, because I have always, in theory at any rate, been very greatly attracted to it—not, I hasten to add, that I have had in mind—and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman did in his speech—the concept of a small Cabinet of non-Departmental Ministers on the lines of war Cabinets and, indeed, on the lines of the central part of the Soviet Cabinet system.
Indeed, during the last war Sir Winston Churchill soon found it necessary to bring back into the Cabinet Departmental heads such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others whom he had left outside. In any case, the problems of peace are very different from the organisation of war.
However, I should like to tell the House that a Cabinet of, say, 11 or 12, containing senior Ministers responsible for a wide range of Departments, is one I have examined very, very carefully on a number of occasions. In view of the interest taken in such an idea, perhaps I might give the House the reasons why, after very careful thought, I have on each occasion come to reject it.
1560 First, I think that there is a very real problem of divided Ministerial responsibility. The system of overlords has been tried—for example, in the early 1950s—but it manifestly did not work. It is tempting, I think, to conceive of the idea of one Minister in overall charge of, shall we say, the economic and industrial Departments with subordinate Ministers of Cabinet rank outside the Cabinet in charge of, perhaps, finance, trade, labour, power, agriculture, transport, technology, but under the direct control of the super Minister; or to conceive of a super-Minister for the Social Services overlording not only my right hon. Friend's new Department, but housing and local government and education.
Tempting though it is to conceive of this kind of grouping, I am quite clear in my own mind that the divided Ministerial responsibility involved would cause it to fail.
My second reason is that in the modern world it is inconceivable that the important sectors of our national life, and particularly those employed in and concerned with those particular sectors, should have only a secondary level Minister not in the Cabinet. There are right hon. Gentlemen on the other side who will remember the furore caused by the exclusion from the 1951 Cabinet of the Minister of Education and the justifiable anger it created among teachers, local education authorities, and officers and others concerned with education. Now, with the much greater responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Education and Science, one could imagine the feelings not only of those I have mentioned, but of the universities and the scientists as well. Again, the exclusion of, for example, agriculture or trade or transport, or the others I have mentioned, would create similar problems—problems measured, not merely by decibels of protest, but by the realities of administration.
The third reason, which I need only mention for hon. Members to work out the implications, though I do not want to enroach on the work of the Constitutional Commission here, is the fact that in any overlord grouping or regrouping—this would apply whether there were separate Ministers and Departments outside the Cabinet or whether there were great federations under a single Minister—there would inevitably be, whether in the economic or in the social grouping, 1561 certain Departments which had full Great Britain responsibility and others where the Scottish and Welsh responsibilities had been devolved to the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales.
There has been, I think, something of a problem here also in relation to the merger of Health and Social Security, but I think that we have been able to overcome the difficulties. I think that hon. Members can work out the difficulties which would arise if agriculture became a subordinate Department in a vast economic conglomeration, or if education became an appendage of a vast social service complex.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition who, I think, if I may say so, has made an important contribution in his recent speeches, will ponder on these particular arguments and in due course give us his views about them. I am sure that when the right hon. Gentleman, in the fullness of time—I hope that it will be after many years in his present position, of course: a traditional tribute—will have the leisure to write, as he would with great authority, a book on these problems, he will probably reach the conclusion, as I have done, that what he is seeking to achieve can best be done by Cabinet Committees, the central ones presided over by the Prime Minister and others by other senior Ministers, not excluding committees under less senior Ministers, including some which have demonstrated the greatest vigour—committees composed of junior Ministers presided over by one of their fellows.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Will the Prime Minister say a word or two about his views on the position of Ministers in relation to research councils? I agree with a great deal of what he has just said in elaborating his three reasons for not reducing the size of his Cabinet, but does he not agree that there is some case for saying that there is a need for a Ministry to be able to stand back, without having administrative day-to-day chores, to observe the work of research councils in its grand perspective?
§ The Prime Minister
This was an idea which was considered and reported upon in the Robbins Report. The decision was taken at that time by the previous Conservative Government, and I 1562 strongly supported it, that the right answer was not to follow the Robbins proposal but to amalgamate the responsibilities for science with the responsibilities for education. It means that the Minister is very busy with his Departmental work, but it avoids the other alternative.
Here again, I come to an example of what I called the division between the hoizontal and the vertical problem. It would have meant, on the other hand, either divorcing university research from university teaching, or divorcing university teaching and research from the schools. I think that this difficult problem, where there is always so much to be said on both sides between the horizontal and the vertical, was rightly decided, and we have followed the line that was taken on that occasion.
There is the problem of research councils, whose purity is a matter of great pride to those engaged in them and responsible for them. We have transferred one research council to the production department as it were, so as to integrate the work of that council with the practical problems of the industry concerned. I think that there would be resistance to transferring other councils, for example, the M.R.C. to the Ministry of Health and the A.R.C. to the Ministry of Agriculture, at any rate at present, although the time may come when it would be right to do that. Certainly, I take the point of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I have not much more to say about that, except that we are continuously looking at the problem and that it has all the difficulties which our predecessors very fairly faced and stood up to here.
I felt it right to spend a little time on the questions with which I have just been dealing on the machinery of government, even at the risk of wearying the House, because they were referred to in the Fulton Report, even though, naturally, they were not covered in that Report, and they determine the framework within which the public service we are establishing today must work.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
Before the Prime Minister leaves the subject of the machinery of government, will he make clear whether the wider review of the machinery of government which the Fulton Report says is so necessary has 1563 already started and will go forward as a separate exercise, and what will be the part to be played by the Constitutional Commission?
§ The Prime Minister
It is and has been a continuing process. It was done by our predecessors, and important changes were made during the time of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). The changes that I made in October, 1964, even if not universally agreed upon in this House, were some of the major changes in the machinery of government. Some are no longer controversial; others are.
It has since then been a continuing problem, and I have made a number of announcements this year. It is impossible to refer this subject to outside inquiry, because so much depends on the way the Government is working at that time and the personalities and working methods of Prime Ministers and their colleagues, as I have already argued. Also, in many cases one has to take a fairly quick decision to make a change in the machinery of government which would be quite impossible if there were an outside independent council considering matters.
The answer to the question is that the machinery of government will be continuously reviewed, not only by the Government, but by the House, and by Select Committees of the House, which continue to make recommendations for study by the Government. It is better to do it in that way rather than to have a single inquiry into the machinery of government. In the sense in which I have been talking about machinery of government today I do not think that the organisation of individual Departments is primarily a matter for the Constitutional Commission, although it will be concerned with those aspects I have mentioned, the problems of Wales, Scotland and the regions of England.
As I have said, I thought it right to spend time on questions of machinery of government because, among other things they determine the framework within which the public service has to work. But the greater part of this debate will, I hope, be about the Fulton Report and its recommendations, and about the 1564 action that the Government are taking to carry out the basic recommendations and the philosophy of the Report.
When I set up the Fulton Committee I said in the House that the task on which it would be engaged would be comparable to the historic study by Northcote and Trevelyan. By this test it had to be judged. By this test, I think the House would agree, it has come through with flying colours. Historians of administration centuries from now will probably accord to the Fulton Committee and its members at least as much importance as the historians of our own age have accorded to Northcote and Trevelyan.
The Fulton Committee was concerned, as I have argued, with the efficiency of an instrument which is vital to the success of public policy, no matter what Government is in power. The reforms which will stem from this Report will dictate the shape, the efficiency and the vigour of the public service for the rest of this century and far beyond.
Ending as I began, the Committee's Report is also a human Report, dealing with the lives, the working conditions, the prospects, the avenues of promotion, the opportunities for fulfilment and self-realisation, the ambitions and hopes of close on half a million of our fellow citizens and constituents.
As I have said, there have been heart-searchings about some judgments expressed in the first chapter of that Report and the inevitable presentation of that chapter in the public Press. The Committee, not least the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend, who are experienced in the ways of the Press, must have known what the Press reaction would be, and they went ahead. What I want them to know is that, whatever feelings this first chapter may have engendered, the mood of the public service is to accept the recommendations of the Report, to accept the sincerity of those who were asked, most of them from outside, to investigate the Civil Service; to accept that the Committee was concerned with the rights of every individual member of that Service as they were with the efficiency of government itself, and to accept, not in a spirit 1565 of complacency but in the constructive determination to see that the Report's recommendations were carried through the Committee's tribute to the exceptional ability of civil servants at all levels, to their integrity and impartiality and their strong sense of public service. That tribute I know the House will wish today to endorse.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
The House is very glad to have this debate on the Fulton Report, and is indebted to the Prime Minister for telling us about the conclusions so far reached by Her Majesty's Government and for giving us a progress report on the steps which have already been taken to implement them. I also welcome the fact that the Civil Service Department is now to publish regular progress reports about the developments as they occur.
In the concluding minutes of the Prime Minister's speech he strayed, very temptingly, into the ever fascinating sphere of Cabinet building and Government reconstruction, about which I may have a few words to say a little later. This subject is perhaps more attractive than a discussion of the classes and grading of Her Majesty's Civil Service, but I am sure that we shall not overlook that this debate is mainly about the Fulton Report, nor shall we underestimate the importance to the Service of the recommendations of the Report on the detailed life of those who are proud members of the Service.
I have already welcomed the Report and thanked Lord Fulton and his colleagues for the work which they have done. This is not the only personal debt which I owe to Lord Fulton, since he was my tutor for three years at Balliol. Since then, we have differed in the political paths which we have followed, but at least I find myself in agreement with the main recommendations which he and his colleagues make in this Report.
I rather agree with what I sense to be the Prime Minister's feeling on the first chapter of the Report. I do not altogether find myself in agreement with its tone and, to a certain extent, I regret the style which it adopted, since it appeared to do somewhat less than justice to the Civil Service. To speak of 1566 amateurs, or even gifted amateurs, is, I think, a grievous under-estimate of the approach of a Service which is professional in that its members are professional administrators.
To recommend that the administrative techniques need to be brought up to date, or that additional techniques should be added is one thing, important and acceptable, but to say that civil servants are, in their own terms, amateurs, or gifted amateurs, has done less than justice to them, and has tended to undermine morale in the Service. I hope that what the Prime Minister has said today, and what hon. Members will say, will do much to put that right. I feel that if the Committee were now to rewrite that chapter it might perhaps adopt a different approach.
The public presentation of the Report has diverted attention to a certain extent from the real importance of the proposals, and detracted from the impact of the Report, but again the debate today will, I hope, help to redirect public attention to the important matters.
I agree with the Prime Minister on the question of the position of civil servants in our public life and the size of the Service. The size is largely dependent on the policies which are pursued by Her Majesty's Ministers. Ministers alone are responsible for their policies; the civil servants have no responsibility for them, and they should not be criticised for them. When there is, therefore, a criticism, either in this House or outside, at the size of the Service, this cannot, and must not, be criticism of individual civil servants themselves.
Another aspect is that it may be that the number of civil servants required is to a certain extent because modern and up-to-date techniques are not being used in some aspects of the Service. An obvious example, although a controversial one, would be the whole question of Government procurement. It might be that if there was a rationalisation of Government procurement in the same way as some of our great corporations have adopted a rationalisation of their own company procurements, the number of civil servants could be diminished. This, however, is only one aspect of the matter, but it indicates that size can be changed by the adoption of different techniques.
1567 I would like to offer a few reflections, I hope fairly briefly, on certain of the salient features of the Report. Every hon. Member is likely to draw on his own experience as a Minister or as a Member, and, indeed, as a member of the public. I draw on mine as a Minister in two great home Departments, the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade, but I would also like to draw to some extent on three years at the Foreign Office.
The Foreign Office was outside the terms of the Fulton Committee, but quite a lot can be learned from the Foreign Office and the Foreign Service and the home Departments of Whitehall. It has always seemed to me that the organisation of the Foreign Office is, in many ways, exactly the opposite of what this House and the public conceive it to be. In my experience, it is the most democratic and the least hierarchial of all the Departments in Whitehall.
In my view, the home Departments have a great deal to learn from the method of operation inside the Foreign Office. Its system of promotion by the joint meetings of Permanent Secretary and Under-Secretaries, with the Permanent Secretary in the chair and Ministers present, is, I believe, in many ways the most effective and, for the members of the Service, the most satisfactory system of promotion which exists in Whitehall and one which gives those in the Service the greatest confidence.
As Government Chief Whip for four years, I also saw the whole Whitehall picture of machinery of government, which aroused my interest in it. I join with the Prime Minister in his concluding words of tribute to the high intellectual ability of the Service and its complete integrity. I think that sometimes the Committee tended to give less than due weight to the soundness of judgment of the Civil Service in matters of human affairs. I have always found it immensely understanding, particularly, perhaps, in the Ministry of Labour, of social problems and of individual matters. The immense capacity for hard work by those in the Service is fully admitted certainly in this House. Loyalty to Ministers and devotion to their Service they possess to a quite unusual degree. I admire the Service for all these qualities and as a former Minister I am 1568 grateful to those in it for the Service they give, These are features which we should be determined to keep whatever other changes we want to bring about.
I am of the opinion that Ministers can be better served, and the Service itself can benefit, by the proposed changes in the Fulton Report. I accept the division into administrators trained in management, which, I understand, is the conception of the Report, and specialists. It seems to me that acceptance of this division has considerable implications for our universities. Perhaps the Paymaster-General can tell us whether any discussions have been carried on with the vice-chancellors about this aspect of their affairs. Government will require a larger proportion of the Service to be specialists of one kind or another. This will mean specialisation in their first degree at universities and obtaining specialist qualifications, such as architects and in other ways.
Admittedly, those trained in management will be administrators first, but this will also require the universities to look at the number of people they produce who have training suitable for administration. Today, this does not mean only the Greats, or the classical course, as was thought at the time of Trevelyan. It includes geographers, sociologists and people with other skills. The universities will have to look at the question whether they are producing a balance between specialists and those with degrees suitable as administrators to be trained in management and to see that they at least produce something in the way of the numbers that government requires.
It seems to me that the main problem of the Report is how it is to be implemented and over what period of years. If the recommendations are right, as I believe that they are, they should be implemented as speedily as possible. The key to this is the Civil Service Department. My view is that in its formation—I understand that this is already under way—it requires men from a wide cross-section of Whitehall. It does not meet the case merely to take the existing Department out of the Treasury and call it the Civil Service Department. It should draw upon people with a wide experience of Whitehall and of all generations. Moreover, where they are 1569 available, it should call on the men who have the management techniques which the Civil Service Department will have to tell the rest of Whitehall that it must adopt.
When it is formed, if those members of the Civil Service Department do not have the managerial techniques they ought to be the first people to go, if not to the Civil Service staff college, at least to the business schools, or to Henley, to get the techniques, because they will not understand what they are going to try to bring about in Whitehall unless they have had such courses and, to a certain extent, have the techniques. What is even more important is that they will not give confidence to Whitehall, and particularly to the younger generation, if it is thought that they themselves have not had this experience. In the formation of this Department, that is extremely important.
The next thing on which I would like to comment is the Civil Service Commission. In many ways I am sorry to see it disappear, but I was in some way assuaged by the statement by the Prime Minister that members in the Civil Service Department will still have their own independence. The Commission may have been slow, and some members of Government Departments may have thought that it was out of touch, but I believe that it had a public reputation for impartiality and integrity which was an all-important part of the Trevelyan-Northcote conception which is still vitally important in our public life. I hope, therefore, that everything possible will be done through the independence of these individual members of the Civil Service Department to maintain that confidence of the public.
One thing which I would like to say about the Civil Service Department, including, as it does, the Civil Service Commission, relates to the Prime Minister's last few words. As far as I can see, there is no continuing organisation to deal with the structure of government. It is true that we, when in power for 13 years, made individual changes; it was usually done on the recommendations of an internal report, perhaps by the Secretary of the Cabinet or some other high permanent official.
With the introduction of these management techniques into the Civil Service, a 1570 wide variety of changes of a different kind will be required. This will need a continuing body to look at the internal structure of Departments of Whitehall. As far as I can see, a gap still exists there. If I am wrong, the Paymaster-General can correct me. Otherwise, this should be marked as a point to be looked into if we are to be able to take full advantage of these changes.
My third point concerns the Civil Service staff college, which I fully support. I do not think that it is in the least a wasteful conception. Outside institutions already have their hands full, as anybody who has visited the business schools in London, Manchester, or Henley knows full well, and, of course, they have to draw on outsiders for lecturers.
I am not, however, in agreement with the suggestion in the Report, which the Prime Minister has endorsed, that for its students the college should also draw on outside sources, and for two reasons. First, it will have quite enough to do to give the additional management training to the young men and women who come into the Civil Service with their first degree and want to be management administrators.
The second thing which has to be done is to give management training to those who are already in the Civil Service. The Fulton Committee estimates this as occupying a period of 20 years. Twenty years is a very long period to bring about changes of this kind. I would have thought it better for the staff college to concentrate on the Civil Service rather than to invite others from industry, or even local government, to come in at this stage.
My second reason is that, in my view, the staff college should concentrate on management and administration in government. This is not the same as management and administration in business. It can be similar to it, but it will never be the same, for the reason of public accountability, about which I shall have something to say later. If a staff college is to try to carry on a joint approach towards industry and local government and central Government, I believe that it will weaken the essential drive to introduce management into Whitehall itself. For that reason, I would much prefer that the staff college concentrate on this one main function.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Billericay)
While appreciating the reasons the right hon. Gentleman has given for its trying to concentrate on the work of the Civil Service, may I ask whether he would not recognise that one of the advantages of involving industrialists at the college would be that this would create an environment, an atmosphere, a mood, call it what we will, which would be of nothing but good to the civil servants in bringing them to work alongside them on projects?
§ Mr. Heath
That is true. It is a question of priorities, and I give the first priority at this stage, and, as far as I can see, for some years ahead, to the technique of management in the Civil Service. There are ways, of course, in which it can get the advantages the hon. Member has mentioned.
My fourth point is the reorganisation of the grades, their simplification, and a reduction in their number. One can see the advantages of this, particularly from the point of view of the management of the Civil Service by civil servants, and one advantage, certainly, is that it would greatly help in the difficult and delicate matters of negotiations on salaries, but we must not underestimate the magnitude of the task of the simplification of grades. I can quite see that it would give encouragement to specialists, and there are to be more of them, who, in the past, have thought their opportunities of improvement and promotion have been more restricted than they ought to have been, but it gives me one major cause for anxiety.
Those who, in the past, have gone into the administrative service have known they were going into a group about 2,500 strong. It was, therefore, a comparatively small group; they could see their way in the future years to their promotion, and they knew that the opportunities of getting right to the top as Permanent Secretary were of a reasonable kind. For this reason, it attracted much of the best intellectual ability from our universities.
My anxiety is that, once there is the simplification of grades and a continuous grading system in the Civil Service, these people will no longer see their future anything like as clearly as they have done in the past, and that this may discourage 1572 the best brains from coming into the Service. They may go into industry and be welcome there, and, perhaps, too many already go into the City and merchant banking. There are grounds for hoping, however, that others will go into industry. However, it will be a loss if they do not come into the Civil Service in the same numbers.
The only method I can see of dealing with this is the method adopted in the Foreign Office, the method which they call colloquially the "high fliers" list. From the earliest stages those thought to have outstanding ability are noted and marked down, and the list is reviewed, in the way I have described, at least once a year. This gives confidence to those who have particular abilities in the particular spheres in which they work. If this or a similar method were adopted the civil servants would feel that they were not being overlooked in what will be a very large Service, indeed. I put this to the right hon. Lady as one means of dealing with this problem if grading is simplified and becomes one continuous grade.
My fifth point is that of policy advisers and planning units. It seems to me that the Committee, to a certain extent, overlooked the fact that Ministers, when they come into office, assume office with policies and with commitments to the electorate, and that the Committee rather discussed the whole question as if one discussed policy in the abstract. This is, in some ways, a dangerous attitude. What is important is that those in the Service should have the time and the opportunity to look ahead in order to identify problems and issues which will be arising some distance away. To do this they must not be bogged down in day-to-day detail. It is perfectly true, that they may put forward possible solutions and policies on particular issues which they see arising; at the same time, they always have to think of the collective policies of the Cabinet and the Ministers of the day.
Looking back to my years in administration, one of the things which concerned me was that it was very important that from Government advisers we should have what I would term, colloquially and loosely, straight thinking—to try to identify problems and issues clearly, and that they should try to think out a policy 1573 which would lead to a solution as logically and clearly as possible. Then, I believe, they should discuss it and thresh it out with those who are handling day-to-day issues. Otherwise, Ministers tend, in my experience—and I have had to handle policy advisers and units of this kind—to become detached from policy formation in Government and in Government Departments.
Therefore, my conclusion is that it is a perfectly good recommendation to have planning units and policy advisers—they exist in some Departments already—but they must operate through the Permanent Secretary; they should not operate direct to a Minister; they must have the confidence of the Permanent Secretary and in my experience, a hard-pressed Permanent Secretary is only too anxious to know that there are people able to look ahead and work out solutions which they will then present to those who are dealing with the day-today issues.
I mentioned straight thinking. There are many who think that a weakness of the Service in the 20 years since the war has been that in policy formulation thinking gets distorted in a number of ways. Some times it is because officials, although they see clearly what a solution ought to be, think it may not be entirely acceptable to Ministers, and, therefore, they think they have to work towards something which is.
In my view, their responsibility is to produce what they think is the right solution. Then, if the Minister wants to alter it, he ought to be quite clear what he is altering and know why he is altering it. This gives a chance to reach the right conclusions. One of the ways it gets distorted is in the inter-Departmental committee system, because this leads to a constant search for comprises when a better solution might be found than an indifferent compromise reached as the result of inter-Departmental activity.
This has led me to ask myself: is there any way in which we can deal with this? When I was concerned with the European negotiations as Lord Privy Seal, my delegation were responsible to me and not to their individual Departments. We discussed what we hoped would lead to success in the negotiations, 1574 within the terms of reference laid down by Parliament, and though they came from different Departments their work was concentrated on this one function, and when we had reached an agreed conclusion, then we had to sell it to the Government Departments. This is the reverse of the procedure which normally happens in an inter-Departmental committee.
In this respect, I want to comment on one other thing, because this has been a matter of public comment outside, and that is, what is supposed to be a difference in outlook of civil servants and those who are engaged in their daily lives in business or manufacturing. They say that the Civil Service is not at all businesslike. What they are really saying is that the job of the Civil Service and Government Departments is still to administer and that it makes no difference that they have to administer with public accountability. In business, one is taking personal decisions in which one takes risks and the responsibility for them. It is this which accounts for the difference of outlook.
The submission I would make is this, that with the introduction of management techniques into the Civil Service as proposed by the Fulton Report certain questions of public accountability will arise. This is why I think there should be a continuing look at the structure of government from the point of view of the internal organisation of Departments. If one aspect of a Department's work is considered suitable for the use of management techniques, I do not believe that we shall be able to have the same degree of public accountability.
This is acceptable provided the House of Commons knows what is happening and is prepared to say, "In running this aspect with modern management techniques, it is clear that certain risks had to be taken. They were taken. Sometimes they were successful, sometimes they did not come off." If we are prepared to adopt this new approach to public accountability, the line suggested by the Fulton Committee can prove successful. If we insist on every safeguard upon which we have insisted in the past with pure administrative techniques, I do not believe that management will have a chance.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Is there not a quid pro quo in that argument? If detailed accountability is not to be given to the House, it should be engaged at an earlier stage in the formulation of policy. Therefore, the Select Committee system, taken with the straight thinking about which the right hon. Gentleman has been talking, might be the answer to this problem.
§ Mr. Heath
I have expressed the view before that bringing the House into policy discussions earlier is valuable and that the provision of more information by Government Departments is a valuable asset. I am not asking the House to abandon detailed accountability. All that I am saying is that we should consider whether we adopt a new attitude towards what is given to us as information on which to base decisions about accountability. It is a new attitude of understanding. If management techniques are adopted, there will be certain risks in them, and if we want to get the advantages, we must be prepared to take the risks.
It is suggested that all would be different if only businessmen were brought in to run Whitehall. That is the argument in its most exaggerated form. Various Governments have brought in individual businessmen, some with great success. It was done by Conservative Administrations, and it has been done by the present Administration. Sometimes the result has not been successful, and the reason for it needs examination. If a businessman is to hold his own, very often he must do so in arguments with people of great intellectual calibre. If any specialist, be he businessman, scientist or anyone else, is to hold his own in arguments in a Government Department, he must have this intellectual calibre as well as business or outside experience.
This must be one of the criteria by which a judgment is made. Another is that every good businessman brought in to the Government from outside is a loss to business. In my experience, high-calibre businessmen are not so numerous that we can afford to draw on them regardless for the work of Government.
§ The Prime Minister
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is 1576 another problem which I have encountered very often in working with businessmen in Government Departments? It is not so much a question of their being of lesser intellectual calibre. Sometimes they are less articulate, because, whereas civil servants are trained to write minutes and to express views clearly, very often the businessman takes decisions which involve risks without always being able to set out in detailed, written form the reasons for so doing. Very often it is done on the basis of hunch or flair, and with great success.
I can remember, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman can, working alongside businessmen who have given their decisions and we have had to say to them, "For God's sake, do not explain the reasons. You are probably right, but if you try to put your reasons on paper they will not convince anybody".
§ Mr. Heath
I agree. This is another important aspect of the problem concerning those who come in from outside and play a full part in the organisation of government.
Another aspect of the Fulton Report on which I should like to touch is that Ministers should be able to bring in from outside a small number of individuals to work with them. This has been done in the past by both the Labour Party and Conservative Party when in office.
The matter which concerned me as a a Minister was that a Minister is able to get advice from his Department on departmental affairs, but, as a member of the Cabinet, it is difficult for him to get a detailed analysis of the work of other Departments for discussion in Cabinet. One's own private office is heavily burdened. Those in it serve with enormous devotion and immense efficiency. But this is a general problem in the context of collective Cabinet responsibility. The more complicated and technical the matters which members of the Cabinet have to handle become, the more important it is that they should be able to have recourse to independent advice about proposals from their colleagues in other Departments. Perhaps this could be of help to individual Ministers, provided that the matter is properly handled.
I come to the point which the Prime Minister mentioned about the machinery 1577 of government. The proposed changes will undoubtedly help to improve the executive resources of government. But this does not solve any of the problems of the machinery of government. Some have said that a Committee should have been appointed to consider the machinery of government and that it should have been followed by the Fulton Committee to consider those who would serve the machinery of government. That is an academic matter now.
However, these changes cannot produce good government. This is particularly true about the management aspects which have been raised by the Fulton Committee. If there are some aspects of government which should be run on a management basis—and I think that there are quite a number—then to have these people trained will not produce the answer unless we are prepared to treat particuar parts of Government Departments as management spheres. That is a decision which can be taken only by the Prime Minister of the day.
There is also the general problem of the Cabinet. In the 19th century, the Cabinet was concerned largely with political matters in which there can be collective responsibility by thrashing out an argument round the table. The work of any Cabinet today is, to a much greater, and sometimes a majority, extent, concerned with the allocation of scarce resources, which means the establishment of priorities. The most difficult thing is to reconcile collective responsibility and the allocation of priorities between colleagues who are collectively responsible. That is the problem which faces us in our Parliamentary and Cabinet system today.
Looking at the structure of government, the one sphere in which there is no clear division of functions or any deep thinking is in the organisation of the economic Departments. This is where the requirements of thought and change lie—the Treasury, the D.E.A., the much diminished Board of Trade, the Department of Employment and Productivity, the old Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Technology. This sphere needs very close study.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman is speaking of his old Department and mine. It would be wrong to say that it is much diminished. While there has been a growth of work in 1578 development area matters, with regional developments, apart from development area employment, the Board of Trade has been greatly strengthened by the transfer to it of responsibility for shipping and aviation questions which, in my view, are immensely suited to it, alongside the tourist work which has also been expanded.
§ Mr. Heath
I recognise the changes which the Prime Minister has made. But, in general, the Board of Trade is no longer considered to be the main industrial Department, as I think he will agree it was in his and my time, because of the changes which have been made.
One thing which concerns me about the machinery of government is the speed of decisions in many matters affecting industry. This is another problem which must be carefully examined when trying to change government structure. One of my main objectives is to speed up the decisions which must be taken now in so many spheres.
I wish to raise with the Prime Minister the question of the arrangements at No. 10. The right hon. Gentleman has a private office. There is the Cabinet Secretariat. There is the Civil Service Department. I understand that there is a small office for the scientific adviser. There is the question whether there is separate economic advice. This now means that there is a considerable number of independent organisations responsible to the Prime Minister without any unifying force except the Prime Minister himself. This does not correspond to any other sort of organisation in Whitehall, and I suggest to him that, in looking at the structure of government, this is one of the spheres which needs very careful study.
Whatever machine we may have, however the structure of government may be changed and the improvements which will now result over a period of years from the Fulton Committee's Report—and it is bound to take time—we shall not get good government unless Ministers are able to inform themselves properly and are prepared to take the necessary decisions at the right time. Without that, no Government machine and no Government service can work effectively.
However, it seems that, if we produce a more efficient Government machine, 1579 there is a danger or even a likelihood that the citizen will consider that it is more powerful government. I am of the view that more effective government is necessary. Therefore, I have to accept that some citizens may think that it is more powerful. In my view, the answer to this is that the check on the Executive of this House and the other place must be seen to be effective.
This poses a number of problems for ourselves which we must admit we have not yet solved. We carry a great burden of legislation and legislative committees. There has been a somewhat half-hearted attempt to add to that something akin to the inquisitorial committees of the United States Congress. I have felt more and more that to pile one on top of the other can lead to the danger of a breakdown in our Parliamentary arrangements and, as a result, we shall get the worst of both worlds.
I do not accept that we have succeeded in bringing about a proper Parliamentary reform to cope with modern times. We have still a great deal of thinking to do about it if we are to convince the citizens that the Executive has a proper check in Parliament. One of the difficulties is that, in the 1930s, to which allusion is sometimes made, many hon. Members on the back benches had time, resources and so many contacts of their own across the world that they had a vast supply of independent information. It is more difficult for most of us today to have those resources and that supply of independent fact and opinion. Therefore, it is all the more important that Parliament should operate in a way which enables individual members to have that.
The other factor borne upon me by the development of more effective government is that we must develop a better system for redressing the grievances of the individual citizen. The Ombudsman has shown that he is able to act effectively, but in a comparatively limited sphere. Therefore, there is the possibility of making further progress with that sort of arrangement or by considering some administrative legal check on our administrative processes. Those are the two directions in which we have to think.
I see the modernisation of our democratic system of government about which 1580 the Prime Minister has spoken from time to time, as he did in his speech in reply to the Address, consisting really of three developments: more efficient and effective government; a more effective check by Parliament on the Executive; and more effective redress for the individual citizens of the grievances which he may think that he has.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Billericay)
I should like to take up the last point raised by the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) that this is not simply a question of our efficiency in government but also raises important elements of discussion about the role of the citizen. I agree that there is something of importance here and that we ought to try-to establish a proper mechanism of checks on the authority of the civil servant in relation to the citizen.
Basically, I suggest that this is not a radical Report. A former distinguished civil servant has said that it could not be. The Committee has diverted attention from its relatively mild proposals by presenting its criticisms in a ferocious way. It is rather like the old-fashioned doctor who believed that it was possible to increase the potency of a quite ordinary drug by speaking sharply to the patient and making the medicine look horrible. That is borne out in the first part of the Report, and there is no doubt that sometimes the language is extremely fierce.
I want also to pay tribute to those civil servants whom I have known and worked with. They are extremely devoted people. They give enormously of their time, efforts and energy. However, the Report is about the efficiency of the Civil Service and the effectiveness of individual members of it. Therefore, it is on this level that we should base our attention and criticism.
§ Mr. Sheldon
When my hon. Friend says, as no doubt other hon. Members will, that the language of the Report is fierce, I think that it would help us if he explained where it is fierce and what arguments he adduces in favour of it.
§ Mr. Moonman
I will come to that later in my speech.
I want to make three general criticisms of the Report in the first instance. My 1581 first is that, while it provides a case for the improvement of men and their positions in the Civil Service, it does not question strongly enough the machinery of government. We have heard the Prime Minister say that this is a matter for constant review by the Government of the day. I do not accept that. It seems to me that it is only possible to examine an organisation by looking at the efficiency of the individuals within it. A very serious factor associated with the running of the organisation is the way in which it is structured. There can be no logic in the way in which the present structure operates.
Historical circumstances have brought together Departments, Ministries and offices because a very powerful Minister in one Department has carried with him a brief or portfolio from another. In 1922, a powerful President of the Board of Trade was able to set the standard and the responsibilities for that Department for a number of years. Therefore, I do not think: that anyone reasonably can argue the logic of government structure, and it is a pity that the Report did not go further into this area, although it was not encouraged to by its terms of reference.
My second general criticism concerns the Ministerial assessment of civil servants. It is extremely difficult to carry out, but there is no doubt that Ministerial-Civil Service relations are becoming more and more uncertain as a result of the Ministerial merry-go-round which takes place. How can Ministers, described by Beloff asthe phantoms who come and go at such a rate",hope to acquire the basic knowledge necessary to understand what it is that the Civil Service provides in the way of portfolios and information?
It is a process which can be justified to some extent by the need to give Ministers a series of different experiences in different circumstances. But there is also a strong argument that the individual Minister is not given a chance to know the details of the Department concerned, and the Report raises the serious criticism that Ministers are not in a position to assess the competence and performances of their senior civil servants. 1582 This is an important function of a Minister, though certainly the Civil Service structure and organisations must provide its own assessment of its officials. But, at the highest level, the man who is in the best position to judge the competence and wisdom of civil servants is the Minister. However, if the man is changed every six or nine months, we lose that important area of assessment.
My third general criticism is that a country's performance is not likely to be better than the education given to those who turn out to be the governing groups in the public and private sectors. An examination of management training in the Civil Service cannot be seen without relating it to the level and quality of management training in industry, the trade union movement and other forms of organisation in our society. This has been established by the Brooking Report, by Peter Jay in The Times and by the Fulton Committee. Clearly, the long-term effects of education, training and management development in the Civil Service 20 years ahead are part of the wider problems of managerial training in general.
I will just mention one or two detailed points. First, we have seen that there is criticism of the all-rounder. He is a luxury that we cannot afford. As more and more parts of social and industrial life come under public administration, the Civil Service becomes, in numerical terms, predominantly an organisation for management and Government servants are in business over a wide range of activities calling for special skills from the scientific and technological to the sociological. It seems that in many ways the products of Civil Service training are ill-fitted for the job. The Fulton Committee wants to abolish all the present distinctions as irrelevant to contemporary needs. This might be felt to be an exaggeration. I do not think that it is. I think that the Fulton Report is right to make this point.
Comparison with a report of a similar kind in the United States shows very vividly the way in which the American Government machine has tackled the same problem. The way in which American Government Departments and Agencies now use, for instance, "behavioural scientists" is a sharp reminder to us. The term "behaviour sciences" 1583 in the course of that report includes all the major disciplines—economics, political science, psychology and sociology.
The point of attack of this problem is the integration of such qualified people into the American Administration. They feel that this is succeeding in imparting research, knowledge and information at critical levels. It has been used to some extent in the Bureau of the Census and also in their economic advisory systems. The value of this is to recognise that with the new disciplines, ranging from psychology to management science, we ought to be able to recruit people with this specialist area of knowledge and give them the opportunity of being involved in policy-making as well.
The economic advisory system in the Federal Government has three main aims. It is worth commenting on this, because it makes an interesting contrast with the Civil Service here. First, that there should be large-scale participation by professional economists in improving the Federal statistical system; secondly, the creation of high-level advisory agencies, such as the Council of Economic Advisers; and, thirdly, pressure for more basic research in economics both inside and outside government.
I could go into greater detail on this subject, but I only wish to establish that there is this contrast with the way in which we have attempted management training in the Civil Service. My right hon. Friend might like to refer to this and to suggest that some inquiries might be undertaken to see how far the American concept of using behavioural sciences could be introduced into the British Civil Service.
I also feel that it would be useful to know what the Civil Service thinks of itself. We can all add individual pieces of gossip and generalisation, but this is not what I mean. It is annoying and disturbing that we are not able to have at our disposal the attitude survey carried out by the Treasury and studied by the Fulton Committee. It would have been of great help in trying to establish some validity in personal impressions. However, I have a newspaper report of the survey, which says:Among the main findings are that a third of civil servants either dislike their job or are indifferent to it, and about a quarter of those 1584 under the age of 40, the crucial recruits, regret that they have joined the Civil Service.The survey also shows that many civil servants think that the promotion system gives poor protection against 'unfair influence', and that almost all executive and clerical officers are up to the standard required in terms of ability.A further point which I will quote from the newspaper article on the attitude survey, which is a most telling one, is:One of the main lessons of the survey is that the Civil Service is in fact attracting the right men and women. The main criticism appears to be not of the civil servants themselves but of the way the available resources are being used.Clearly the way in which the resources are being used is the point made in a first-class demonstration of an attack on the problem in Volume 2. This has been referred to by the Prime Minister and others. There can be no doubt that this is a brilliant analysis of the Civil Service.
Another brief point that I would make—
§ Sir E. Boyle
On what the Civil Service thinks of itself, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that in Volume 5, particularly the second half, there is a good deal of comment from members of the Civil Service on how they think the Service should work—for example, the paper by the independent group of members of the F.D.A. in Volume 2, which contains a lot of useful thoughts.
§ Mr. Moonman
Yes. I was thinking in terms of a valid assessment of the survey. The reference that I have given would perhaps be more impressive, but I take the point that there are individual comments. We can also make individual comments.
I welcome two other points in the Report: the transfer from the Treasury of the new Civil Service Department of Central Management Services and also that Ministers should be encouraged to appoint advisers and experts. This goes a long way towards meeting the need of having specialist advice, to which I referred earlier. But this is not quite the danger suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
One point which is not taken into account seriously enough in the Report, 1585 but I hope will be by the Government, is that the encouragement for greater growth in the number of people having training and greater interest in management development will highlight a serious shortage of trainers. This has been recognised in industry. As industrial organisations have latched on to training—indeed, they have been encouraged by the Industrial Training Boards to take the greatest advantage of their levies—we have reached the critical point at which there is a recognition that there are not enough good quality people to go round to do the work. Therefore, I hope that it will be realised that although quite a large number of people can be brought in to do the training, the planning, and the co-ordinating of management development—and these can come from consultants or industrial organisations—a large measure of responsibility must lie with the Civil Service. Therefore, the Civil Service College will play an important part in this direction.
There is one other area which the new Civil Service Department should examine. That is the activation of the scheme to bring together personnel from Government and industry. This is why I intervened earlier. One way in which we can get civil servants identified with the mood and the environment of industry is to have them working alongside industrialists on projects both in the college and outside.
§ Mr. Anderson
Does my hon. Friend recognise the danger that industry is unlikely to give up its high flyers, and that the people who are likely to be sent to work alongside civil servants will be the also-rans?
§ Mr. Moonman
The reference that I was making—indeed, it was the point raised earlier by the Leader of the Opposition—was that at the college—and this arose from a recommendation in the Fulton Report—there should be a number of places allocated to people from industry. I think that the right hon. Gentleman's feeling was that this was not the first priority. I believe that industry would welcome the opportunity to send a number of people for this type of course. It is already happening, and there is no reason why it should not continue.
1586 The other example that I offer is that the Treasury and the C.B.I, have agreed that there should be more organised two-way exchanges. This is still too haphazard, and it may be what my hon. Friend has in mind. There is not sufficient encouragement by industry to send the high flyers on a nine or 12 months project. Industry has its representatives on a number of committees and they meet civil servants and are thus able to exchange ideas on "little Neddies" and on many of Whitehall's committees. But a more positive approach is required. The one way in which this can be done at certain grades is at the Civil Service College.
The most heartening feature of the Report is the implication that the Committee and the Civil Service are beginning to understand the great deal of knowledge and skill that is available in industry. We have to be selective. There are the different aims of the policy-making bodies, but, nevertheless, the management content that will be increasingly required by the Civil Service is not so different from industrial management. If we are talking seriously about the use of management techniques, operational research, and organisation and methods, it should be possible for industry to help with the exchange of information and ideas. If this happens, it can only be to the benefit of the Civil Service.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham)
This is an important and, in a sense, historic Report. It is the first Report on the Home Civil Service for over 100 years. It is a radical and contentious Report which, if carried out, will change the whole practice of the Civil Service. Yet it poses more questions than answers—questions which are more relevant to our condition than the Report itself. It poses questions concerned with the machinery of Government, as well as constitutional questions, and especially those concerned with what might be termed the practical management of Great Britain.
The Report answers none of these questions. It will be said that such questions were not within the Committee's terms of reference, yet there are sections in the Report concerned with relations between the Civil Service, the public and Parliament and which should have been 1587 concerned with management. The Committee is itself guilty of ignoring what it terms the basic guiding principle of the future development of the Civil Service. That principle is summed up in the words "Look at the job first."
What is the job of the Civil Service? Surely it is to serve the Government of the day, to advise where it can and guide when it can, but always to serve. It has this simple but vital rôle, which the Committee has not begun to grasp. In paragraph 7 the Report says that the role of the Government has greatly changed, that these changes have made for a massive growth in public expenditure and that public spending means public control. It says:A century ago the tasks of government were mainly passive and regulatory. Now they amount to a much more active and positive engagement in our affairs.That is true, but it does not mean that it will be true for all time, nor that it is desirable that it should be true. Least of all is it an excuse for creating a vast juggernaut of a machine to match what is euphemistically termed "these new tasks of government". Quite the reverse. It is a common observation that the power of the Executive is growing and should be diminished.
But I do not discuss the Executive from any philosophical viewpoint—although I am not ashamed to do so. I do so on the ground of good management—of getting what we want at the cheapest cost. My criticism of the size of the Civil Service and its organisation is bound to lead to the accusation that one is concerned only with cutting the benefits of the Welfare State, but the Brookings Report showed that our social services suffer in comparison with those of other countries, and that they are grossly overmanned and expensive on any cost-benefit analysis.
The message of Fulton is that the Civil Service is not technically competent to perform the task that it is invited to perform. One might ask, how could it be? If, as I understand, the Department of Economic Affairs was formulated by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) in the back of a taxi, and the Department of Employment and Productivity was formed to please the right hon. Lady the Minister, how can we expect the 1588 Civil Service to keep pace with the changes brought about by political pressures? I suspect that the reasons for the shortcomings of the Civil Service must be laid not so much with the methods of the Civil Service but with the tasks that it is asked to perform. The plain fact is that it is management that is at fault. The many criticisms made by the Management Consultancy Group should have been levelled not at the Civil Service but at successive Governments.
With this principle in mind I should like to make some comments on the Committee's specific proposals. The criticism of the all-rounder seems to me rather cheap, as is the criticism that many scientists, engineers and members of the specialist classes get neither the full responsibilities nor the opportunities that they ought to have. I wonder what evidence there is that scientists and engineers made good managers. What makes a good manager is a first-rate mind and a flair for organisation. It matters not how that first-rate mind be trained—whether in Greats or Sciences or the Arts.
It is easy to talk about the importance of numeracy, and I agree that the prospects for sophisticated administration have been revolutionised by the computer and that we are not making sufficient use of it. But, speaking as one who has completed a course on computers and has studied their application in many countries, as well as at home, I submit that there is no need to get a specialist skill and become exclusively numerate in order to handle computers properly. There is a much more urgent need to become more literate in studying and explaining their use. To talk of being professional, therefore, in terms of having a specialist's skill in obtaining a good manager, is just nonsense.
I turn now to what the new numerate, literate and managerial civil servant is to do. We are told that he should know what his objectives are and that his performance should be judged by his results. This is reasonable enough, but I confess that I do not know how much the work of the Departments can be so organised. How far can we make a service into a project? How can education or health be provided as a project? If it can be made susceptible to project management, in the way that, perhaps, housing can, 1589 would it not be possible not only to hive it off but even to denationalise it and take it out of the sphere of the Civil Service altogether? That is my main criticism of the Report.
§ Sir E. Boyle
My hon. Friend has been a shade sweeping. He has asked what evidence there was that these other specialist skills could be used more in managerial positions. He will see that in Appendix D of the main Report we refer, in paragraph 4, specifically to the evidence that we had on this subject. Most of it—not quite all—is published in the later volumes of the Report.
§ Mr. Hordern
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I shall certainly look again at Appendix D and examine the evidence.
I am not convinced from any observation that I have made, apart from the evidence, that good scientists necessarily make good managers, or of the counterpart—that the generalist is, by virtue of not being a scientist, a bad manager.
My main criticism of the Report is that the question is not whether skilled managers could do their job better but whether: hey need to do their job at all in the various Departments of the Civil Service. Although this is intended as a criticism of government, I would yet contend that it comes entirely within the Committee's terms of reference and that it is a question that has been ignored.
These improvements cannot be expected to flourish unless there is a real attempt at proper management. It is suggested that a new Civil Service Department should be set up which should be under the control of the Prime Minister. This the Government have accepted. The object is to wrest control of the pay and management group from the Treasury, but I am not convinced about this. What I am convinced about is that there should be a new rôle for the Cabinet Office itself. It should be a co-ordinating role—a management rôle. The management rôle is not only to settle policy but to work out the implications of the various policies adopted by different Departments.
Let me give one small example. In my opinion, the White Paper on the 1590 Government's fuel and power policy was worked out on the basis of various projections given by different fuel industries. It was a carefully worked out document, entirely accurate in all its estimates, as far as one could observe. The criticism that one can make against that White Paper, good as it was, is that its policy was not co-ordinated with the Ministry of Labour, as it then was. Had there been a separate Management Department—to ask the Minister of Labour what were the prospects of running down the numbers of coal miners when sufficient number of training centres had been established—I believe that a different conclusion could have been reached in the White Paper itself. One cannot avoid the impression, under various and successive Prime Ministers, that they sometimes do not know all that is going on. We think, for example, of the proliferation of the Winter Emergency Committee and other ad hoc committees, and I remember even Mr. Macmillan being caught by surprise on one or two occasions.
This suggestion for a management rôle for the Cabinet Office goes a good deal further than my party's policy, which is simply to set up, under the Prime Minister, a small administrative unit to ensure that the latest management techniques are introduced throughout the public sector. I have a much larger rôle in mind for it—not only a management role, in the sense of discovering what is happening and what the proposals are in other Ministries, but also a planning role in the sense of finding out what is happening in other countries and what developments may affect us. This is a development which occurs to us more and more as time goes on, with the increase in technological knowledge and the effects that that has all over the world.
The idea of a strengthened management unit in the Cabinet Office is more akin to the proposals of the Haldane Commission in 1918, which said:It appears to us that adequate provision has not been made in the past for the organised acquisition of facts and information and for the systematic application of thought as a preliminary to the settlement of policy and its subsequent administration.It suggested that a special Department should be set up to carry out research. I have in mind something much more like the Council of Economic Advisers 1591 to the President of the United States, but with the added authority to ask why certain things are being done in this way of any Department of State. If this question were asked, I do not believe that the Civil Service would retain its present structure or size.
I can illuminate that by contrast with the civil services of Germany and the United States. Our Civil Service now numbers 474,000. In Germany, a country of the same population, the number is 272,000. In the United States, the number is 1¼ million—that is, 2½ times our number, with four times our population. Yet these two countries seem to manage their affairs reasonably well—
§ Mr. Sheldon
The hon. Member must be aware of the specious nature of his argument, since in Germany there are land governments and in the United States state governments, beside local governments as well. These comparisons are utterly meaningless, therefore.
§ Mr. Hordern
The hon. Member in his turn must be aware that there are local authorities here, and that the comparison is apt.
What we should be concerned with is not only the structure and size of the Civil Service but its management capacity and the devolution of the Civil Service within the local authorities. It is my observation that central administration is better run by a smaller service, perhaps with more power for local authorities, than with a large central service.
There is a strong prima facie case not only for a reduction in the size of the Civil Service, but also for a very different role from that suggested in the Report. The Committee said, referring to the Parliamentary Select Committees, in paragraph 281:It would be deeply regretable, however, if these committees became an additional brake on the administrative process. We hope, therefore, that in developing this closer association with departments, Parliament will concentrate on matters of real substance, and take fully into account the cumulative cost (not only in time but in the quality of administration) that the raising of minutiae imposes upon them.I hope not only that the Select Committees will take up much more of the time of the Civil Service, but that their number will be increased.
1592 The counterpart of strengthening the power of the Executive which a stronger Cabinet management office would have, must be to strengthen the powers of inquiry by Parliament and this House. I am very attracted to what I thought were the ideas of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) on this subject. It seems an impertinence of the Committee to suggest that this House should be asked to keep its inquiries to a minimum, when the role of the House must be to ask more and more questions of the Civil Service and to find out how our affairs are being conducted.
In this respect, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, when he said at Blackpool that the next Conservative Government would strengthen democracy…by ensuring that Parliament can perform its duty of controlling the Executive…meant precisely that. In this debate, we have been dealing with the powers and capacity of the Civil Service, but we cannot do so without ourselves questioning the structure of the machinery of government. I believe that the time has come for another full-scale outside inquiry into the machinery of government. I am not convinced that the surveys which have been described today, conducted by successive Governments, are sufficient for this purpose. Parliament's whole role needs to be reassessed. I feel that we should have a further Royal Commission to study the structure of government itself.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) too far, because, when examining a very full Report of this character, we have to select parts on which we want to concentrate. But his remarks about the United States and the German administrations revealed an appalling ignorance of the true situation regarding their civil services and ours. The very fact that we are more or less a unitary Government while they are federal shows how appalling his figures are. For instance, if the United States started to catch up with us in social services, with a National Health Service, for instance, it would have to employ many more so-called civil servants. They cannot have it both ways, and nor can the hon. Member.
1593 The almost psychological element in his contribution was that, although he had some praise for the Civil Service, he showed the in-built opposition of hon. Members opposite to the Civil Service. I have seen this on many Committees and in the House, when all sorts of aspersions are cast on civil servants of all ranks. The constant knocking cry is, "The gentlemen in Whitehall know better." Yet when it suits their purpose, we are also treated to a wonderful eulogy like that which the Leader of the Opposition gave today. We have seen the same sort of thing at Question Time.
I must pursue this, because I find it particularly irritating when hon. Members opposite, as is their right, plead for certain things for their constituencies—better roads, new hospitals, more schools, improvements in this and that—but at the same time want to run down the Civil Service. They seem to be qualifying Disraeli's remark that the Conservative Party is nothing but "an organised hypocrisy". They have a responsibility to press for these things, but only in a major debate of this kind do they find something good to say about the Civil Service.
Having got that off my chest, I now want to comment on the Report. I, too, find the wording of the opening chapter a little offensive. I believe, as the Prime Minister has already said, that if the members of the Committee could have known what the reaction in the Press and other places was going to be to their opening remarks, they might have selected more judicious terms. It has been one of the great safeguards in our political life that we have never attached ourselves too much to the idea of having the specialist in charge, the man at the head blinkered in one particular outlook. We have an example in the Chamber now. Only a few weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General had totally different responsibilities. This happens whatever Government are in power.
It is good that there should be change within the Civil Service, with people moving round from office to office, so long as they have the basic intellectual capabilities and, what is more, a true feeling for the improvement of life. This is what the Civil Service is all about, 1594 doing as much as it can, within the terms of reference put to it by the Government of the day, to improve the quality of life in our country. Therefore, I view with some apprehension the idea of a decree laying down that people at the head of Departments within the Civil Service must be specialists of one kind or another, and my apprehension is fortified by the knowledge of the past record of some of our senior civil servants who made a magnificent contribution in times of peace and of war.
I come now to items of detail in the Report. For the rest of my speech I shall concentrate on what I call the lower echelons of the Service. I regret, though I can understand, the failure of the Report to say much about the conditions of service and aspirations of junior civil servants. I have in mind what is said in paragraph 100, and I shall comment on that later, but relatively little is said on this subject, and from neither the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister nor that of the Leader of the Opposition did we hear much reference to what I regard as the fundamental element in the structure and efficiency of a happy and well run Civil Service.
All forms of human organisation, large and small, depend upon the base of the pyramid, and this is particularly true within the Civil Service. The base of the Civil Service pyramid is, on the non-industrial side, the clerical officer, the executive officer and the clerical assistant, and, on the industrial side, the fitter, the bricklayer, the carpenter and so on. The position of civil servants in these grades may appear at first sight not to be relevant to the fundamental purpose of the Report, but we ignore it at our peril.
These junior grades at the lower levels of the Civil Service are a cross-section of the vast majority of ordinary people in Britain. This is why I say we neglect at our peril their aspirations and their desire to get on. Very many people in the Civil Service have found that, because of existing structures and procedures, their aspirations have been stultified and they have been, as it were, compartmentalised or departmentalised.
On page 47 of the Report, there is reference to terms of service and pension arrangements. I could say a good deal in this connection, but time will not 1595 allow, so I shall ration myself to commenting on paragraph 137, which urges the awarding of pensions to temporary staff. I am delighted that the Commission has made that recommendation. This has been an oversight for far too long. Many people who entered the Civil Service as temporary civil servants, perhaps during the war or shortly after, have found that, because of the nature or terms of their employment which were negotiated hurriedly at the time, they could never be anything but temporary.
There is nothing so permanent as being a temporary civil servant. It must be irritating to the individual. It is an anomaly. What is more, it is an injustice. People who have given 25 or 30 years of service find, on retiring, that because of a grading scale which calls them temporary, they can have only an inferior pension or, sometimes, no pension at all. I hope that my right hon. Friend will comment on this most important aspect of the Report.
I am pleased that the Report acknowledges the value of the work of the staff associations, but I am a little concerned that it seems to recommend that the grading of new jobs under a reformed structure would not be determined, as has been done hitherto, in consultation with the staff associations. In the past, the staff associations have played a part in the definition of gradings, but it now seems that the grading of individual jobs is to be a matter for management to determine on its own. Perhaps the staff associations have already agreed to this in principle. If they have—I have heard a whisper that they have—I consider that they have been thoroughly myopic.
If there is one respect in which the Civil Service has a good deal to teach the rest of industry, it is in the relationship of the various branches one with another and, as it is usually called, the relationship of the official side with the staff side in the Whitley system. Although the Report has some criticism of the Whitley system, it acknowledges, as many industrialists ought to acknowledge, that it has played a massive part in smoothing out many trouble spots at all levels in the service which, if they had been left to fester, might have given rise to great problems.
One of the great influences for good in the Civil Service has been that, if a 1596 Department had to reorganise itself or make changes, it took into its confidence the staff side officials right from the start. I regard this practice as one which, if it had been adopted in industry, might have prevented much of the disturbance which we have had in post-war years, and I certainly hope that it will be continued in the Civil Service.
A remarkable fact is revealed if one examines the disruption and collisions which have taken place in industry and compares them with their counterparts, so to speak, in the Civil Service. I fully support the great industrial trade unions and recognise the magnificent work which they have done, but a massive contribution has been made by the staff side negotiating within the Civil Service. The Whitley system, operated at all levels, whether with reference to a local canteen or, at the other end of the scale, in defining gradings, rates of pay and so on, [...] show industry a great deal in how [...]mbark upon and continue intellige[...]d sensible negotiations.
I regard as somewhat alarming the suggestion that, perhaps with a view to more speed and quicker decision, Departments should be allowed to determine the level of gradings within themselves without consultation with the staff side. I hope that the matter will be reconsidered.
Now, a comment on what the Leader of the Opposition said about participation by Parliament and Members of Parliament in trying to understand how our counterparts in the Civil Service operate. I am all in favour of such participation; I regard it as desirable, but, if hon. Members want to get to the nub of the question and to understand the philosophy behind it, I recommend them to read Aneurin Bevan's "In Place of Fear" in which he deals with this problem neatly and succinctly. I should like to make the same recommendation to my right hon. Friend. What Bevan said in his book was that far too often we hear people cavilling at the Civil Service, at faceless people who have enormous powers. If one does that, it must imply that the elected representatives have not similar authority or power.
If we are to have closer liaison with the Departments of State, as I believe we should, to try to understand how they run and how they are trying to interpret 1597 what we say here, we must at the same time equip ourselves. I find it particularly distressing when constituents come here to speak to me about something involving a Department or a personal problem, and expect me to take them to my office in the House where the whole story will be taken down by my secretary. I have to tell them that I do not have a room, and I have to find a little bench somewhere around the Central Lobby or—the best gag of all—buy them a lunch in the cafeteria. That is what Members have to do. If I see a higher executive officer or anyone of that status about a constituent's problem I go to a nice room with a large desk and with carpet on the floor. A button is pressed and the secretary comes in for the civil servant. Unless we correct this sort of thing, we do not deserve to have a proper liaison and understanding.
We in the House must have the courage to do something about it. If we do, we shall have not only a better liaison and relationship with Departments of State but we shall become more efficient Members. At the same time we shall be able to understand more clearly the problems not only of our constituents but of the civil servants who are trying to resolve them. We must have the courage to say this loud and clear.
There are some recommendations in the Report that I endorse. I should like to think that the college which is spoken of will come a little more quickly than my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister suggested today. It seemed to me that his reply to an intervention about the prospects of the college being established implied that it would be done by degrees. But I hope that we shall reach the final answer very quickly. I also hope that we shall acknowledge that there are dangers in the concept, though I approve of it in the main. Probably the majority of those who enter the Civil Service do so on the basis that it will be their career. They wish to work their way through, take their examinations and so on. After giving many years to a Department, one can have nothing more frustrating than to see someone called in from outside to pip one for promotion. We must have a look at this very human aspect of a difficult situation.
Let us not always talk of the Civil Service in the context of university gradu- 1598 ates. Let us consider the possibility of young men or women entering the Civil Service as clerical assistants, or even paper keepers or messengers, having an opportunity of getting right to the top and becoming permanent secretaries, if possible. This could be done by use of the training machinery in the Civil Service and by encouragement. Not much of this sort of thing happened in the past, because our general education system did not allow for it. But now, with improvements in the education system, there are opportunities for extra training, including day-release courses and so on, which were not available when I was a young man. Young people who may not qualify for higher grades in their initial years in the Civil Service must be told, if they are conscientious and wish to get on, "Yes, you can. If you make your contribution we shall see that the doors are open for you to get on in the Civil Service. You do not have to start with a university degree." We must say this loud and clear to the many thousands of young people who will enter the Civil Service in the future, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will take note of this.
I conclude as I began. We can have, and have had, brilliant people within the Service, which has had to be enlarged to include scientists and technologists. Our Civil Service probably reflects life in the country as a whole. For example, before the war I would not have dreamed that there would be a connection between the Civil Service and coal miners, but this has happened, and we have had examples this afternoon.
I hope that we shall not forget that the success of any big organisation depends on happiness at the base of the pyramid as well as efficiency at the apex. If this is borne in mind, and all grades of the Civil Service right the way through are given the encouragement and understanding of Parliament and the institutions of the Civil Service, our nation will be better served. It is still true that we have probably the most efficient and best Civil Service in the world. I believe, as an ex-civil servant, and having talked to civil servants in my job as a Member of Parliament, that in the main we have people who are not merely devoted to their job but realise that their contribution in their work as civil servants is to 1599 improve the quality of life of their fellow citizens.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I shall say no more about the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Molloy) than to suggest that, like the Civil Service, much of it might with advantage have been cut. Nor will I comment at length on the size of the Civil Service, beyond noting that the present Government appear to believe that they need about 70,000 more civil servants to discharge their policies than were employed in 1964.
So that there should be no doubt about this being a matter for political criticism rather than criticism against the Civil Service, I am sure hon. Members will have noticed the statement in paragraph 294 on page 97 of the Fulton Report that:Throughout our work we have been conscious of the widespread public concern over the growing size of the Civil Service.Then paragraph 295 begins:…the size of the Service is related to the size of the tasks directly carried out by the government.;If the Civil Service is too large, as I believe it to be, it is because the Government are doing more than they should be doing. Let us pin the blame on them.
This has been an important and significant week of debate, talking all the time around a central point that we have never yet quite reached. On Monday our debate was about the franchise, yesterday and the day before about the other place, and today we are talking about the executive arm of the Administration. But somehow, possibly as a deliberate consequence of the Government's approach to the matter, we had never reached its nub—the function and value of this House—although some Members have come close to it. I dare say they are exhausted by their efforts in the debate yesterday and the previous day.
As a matter of curiosity, I note that at the moment, waiting to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, there is no Member who was in the House before 1964, with the exception of the occupants of the two Front Benches. I take that as a compliment to my generation. We have not yet been taken in by the three-card trick 1600 which the Government have played successfully on all the rest of the House. We realise, and many who are not here also realise but are too exhausted by their previous efforts to take part in this debate, that the function of Parliament is the central issue, the issue of the greatest importance, and that without discussing this we cannot form any valuable or successful judgment on the Report of which we are now invited to take note.
I want to touch on the relationship between the Administration and the House. I follow a point made by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Moon-man). Although we know that the machinery of government was outside the scope of the Fulton Committee, excluded from its terms of reference, in fact it is crucial and has been widely admitted to be crucial in many other areas, apart from the Fulton Report.
May I quote from an interview which took place on B.B.C. television on 19th January between the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Social Services and Sir Paul Chambers, with Ian Trethowan in the Chair? Almost at the outset of the right hon. Gentleman's comments I find the following passage:I have often said that we are the worst informed Parliament in the world in the sense that we get less information from the Government than any other Parliament. I have also learned that we are probably the worst informed Government in the world and that when we take decisions we take them on often desperately inadequate information.I will not inquire which decisions he meant, although I could suggest some, such as the cancellation of the TSR2.
That was an analysis by a senior Minister of a flaw in the system and, unreliable as evidence though we know this particular right hon. Gentleman to be from time to time, I am nevertheless prepared to assume that if that was what he said in January, 1968, he has not wholly changed his mind in November, 1968.
That being so, we have to ask whose fault it is that there is this flaw. Certainly it is not the fault of the Civil Service, and it is not the fault of the Treasury who are so often brought into the dock to take the blame for the whole of the Civil Service. The fault lies with us. It lies with Ministers in allowing themselves to be put in the position of taking decisions on 1601 "desperately inadequate information". It lies with hon. Members in allowing Ministers to be in that position. We must face it: if we are to think about the Civil Service, we must start our thinking here
The Fulton Report mentions the gifted amateur. Some amateurs are less gifted than others—and that applies to many other places, too. It applies equally to Ministers. In a sense, Ministers are "shamateurs". They are not truly professional, although they are paid. Not all of them are equally gifted. I will not follow that line of argument, fascinating though it is, but perhaps I may again quote, from the same interview with the right hon. Gentleman, another fascinating passage in which he talked of the Civil Service:There are first-rate experts there, but the majority are overworked men who have to run a section of a department and they're moving round the department, or moving round the place, they are not experts, and they don't know very much, and you can get ghastly mistakes because the department simply doesn't know. So to come back to my other point, information, information, information.I must interpolate that that is yet another indication of a peculiar Crossmanite fallacy that the more information you have the wiser you become.
§ The Paymaster-General (Mrs. Judith Hart)
The hon. Member might also bear in mind my right hon. Friend's indication of just how inadequate we found the information-gathering machine of Whitehall when we came into power in 1964. He will be familiar with our efforts in statistical services and other directions to improve the flow of accurate information, which is needed equally by civil servants, Ministers and hon. Members.
§ Mr. Onslow
I am delighted to have provoked the right hon. Lady into making her first intervention, but she will not divert me from concentrating on the text of one of her colleagues, which is rather more interesting and more relevant to what I have been arguing. Continuing with the quotation, Mr. Trethowan said to the right hon. Gentleman,But, on top of that, you've also got, surely, a situation where the minister is, very often, the least expert of all, I mean, by the very process of political life.1602 To that the right hon. Gentleman replied—and I realise I may have an imperfect transcript—as follows:Well, he, you know, he acquires, he can acquire, you can acquire an incredible amount of knowledge very quickly.He then makes the important point:What I'm reminding you of is that many of these civil servants are moved so often that they really aren't very much more expert than you are if you're there a couple of years—well, you should be able to hold your own against them.There, apparently, is the justification in the right hon. Gentleman's mind—the fact that the nature of the game and its rules produces an equality of ignorance. I do not regard that as a very satisfactory state of affairs. Equality of ignorance in administration can mean that neither Ministers nor civil servants can beat each other at the game, but if we are seeking to improve, as we are, the quality of civil servants by getting more real experts, by getting more expertise and more experience into the administration—regardless of whether someone is pipped at the post for promotion, which is a secondary affair in the public mind—then the imbalance against Ministers becomes more serious and, as a result, the imbalance against the House becomes all the more serious. That is because Ministers will no longer be able to beat the administrators, because we have made the administrators more knowledgeable and more expert men.
I want to see experts in the administrative side. If we must have a Minister of Technology, which is a debatable question, I would far rather see Sir George Edwards or Sir Arnold Hall in the post than the present incumbent or anyone who may replace him from the Government Front Bench—or, indeed, I admit, from my own Front Bench. I would much rather see men of that calibre in the job. The same is true as we go down the line.
We come to the crucial point that if there is a serious obstacle which Fulton has not been able to overcome we must ask, where does it lie? I suggest that it lies in the Ministerial system and that there are two obstacles to improvement which we must consider. The first is a question of quality and the second a question of continuity.
1603 The quality available to the Front Bench or to the intermediate benches between the back benches and the Front Benches—those benches which seem to be so full whenever a three-line Whip is issued—depends at the moment on membership of the House or of the other place, and primarily of this House. That is a somewhat random process for which there is no training and, incidentally, which gives no security. It is somewhat ridiculous in the eyes of people outside the House, and to many in the House, that there is thought to be some magical quality deriving from membership, from sitting here representing people of a particular constituency—a magical quality which turns the trick between a man being able to be a Minister of the Crown and a man lacking the ability to be a Minister of the Crown. Of course, that is not in fact the position. It is a matter of the myth of accountability. A man has to be a Member of this House or of the other House to be a Minister in order that he may be accountable.
§ Mr. Molloy
The hon. Member is wrong. It is within the Prime Minister's power to make someone a Minister without his being a Member of either this House or another place.
§ Mr. Onslow
If that is within the Prime Minister's power, I wonder why he found it necessary to ask Mr. Frank Cousins to stand for the constituency of Nuneaton when he made him the first Minister of Technology.
I do not think that there is any magic quality in membership of the House which qualifies a man to become a Minister. I do not think that there is any particular factor in the House which trains a man to be a Minister. Mastery of the House of Commons is frequently advanced as a sign of a man's quality. Let us take as an example the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has often been praised in the Press as a master of the House. In certain circumstances, winding up the debate with half an hour to go, he displays a considerable mastery, but, with all respect to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that tells us nothing about his capacity as a Minister. It is misleading to suppose that because a man can master the House, he will make a good Minister. It would be almost as 1604 foolish to suggest that because a man becomes Prime Minister, his golf handicap might come down; there is no connection.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I am genuinely interested in and surprised by one thing my hon. Friend has said. Surely the capacity of a Minister to pilot a Bill through Parliament, for example, and the capacity of civil servants to brief him and to help him to be responsive to the will of Parliament is one of the most important aspects of government. I would have thought that my hon. Friend and other hon. Members would have wished to lay more rather than less emphasis on that aspect of the work of civil servants.
§ Mr. Onslow
I am attempting to analyse what seems to me to be a central defect. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for pointing out that there are other functions, but while it would take too much time to go into it fully, I do not think that he would convince me that there was no other way in which legislation could be piloted through the House, unless he were to deny me access to the American example. These things can be and are done in other places and we should not dismiss the possibility that they may be done here.
The other factor is continuity. I very much regret the fact that this place is so often thought of as being, in a good way or a bad way, the high road to governmental office. This is a great inhibition upon us and we sometimes delude ourselves about our own qualities because people say that when there is a change of Government, certain Members are sure to get jobs. I do not see why they should necessarily be any more sure of getting jobs than other people with better qualifications, but lacking the magic qualification of the letters M.P. after their names.
Because there is this need of Members of Parliament to display their abilities in such ways as they can, but not to become over-specialised because it is then said of them that they are men good for only one course, we are unable to take such advantages as continuity could give us. The electoral swings see to it that, within limits, there is not continuity of membership, but there are places where continuity can be of value, particularly 1605 in the Specialist Committees. It is not simply that the Specialist Committees should be able to continue in existence in spite of everything, without being cut off because there are not enough individual Members to man some other Committees and the pack must be reshuffled, but because the expertise developed in this way would be of great value to the public body as a whole. That could only be of advantage—and it might lessen some of the acrimony which sometimes gets into our debate—would be if more of us, on both sides of the House, knew more about the subject.
I quote the right hon. Gentleman for the last time, but I do so briefly.
§ Mr. Onslow
I shall ration myself to less time than the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) took.
Towards the end of the same interview the right hon. Gentleman said:…the biggest single problem we have is communication between the British people and their elected people…".Wrong again. The biggest single problem we have is communication between the elected representatives of the people and the people who administer the system of Government. The right hon. Gentleman does himself no service by perpetuating the myth of the gulf between Parliament and people. The gulf is between Parliament representing the people and the Administration governing the people. That is where the gap is and that is where the bridge has to be built.
I was much encouraged to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) touch on this subject, because I have no expectation of seeing any reform in this respect made by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I know that the people want it. I believe that they are far more interested in this, the accountability of Government and the openness of society, than they are in votes at 18, or in the powers of the other place, because they know that the latter two are secondary matters and the first is a primary matter, and people have sense, reluctant as so many of us sometimes are to credit them with it. People instintively know a great deal more than the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State is prepared to allow.
1606 We in the Opposition are pledged to this. We want an open society. We want an efficient Administration controlled in conditions of genuine bureaucracy—democracy—[Laughter.] Genuine bureaucracy and genuine democracy are not necessarily incompatible and I would not mind a match being made between the two, because we must admit that if government is a necessary evil, it is best for it to be a genuine bureaucracy rather than an art nouveau bureaucracy with the twiddles and twirls which add nothing to its functions, but with which we are all so familiar.
I come now to my peroration. I endorse what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley and I should like to say how much heart I draw from it, because I believe that this is a subject in which as a party we have a great deal of work to do and to which we will have to give a great deal of thought. We have also to admit to ourselves that if we are to secure progress and improvement, we have to recognise the need for changes in the Ministerial system, because this is the only way in which we can succeed in getting what we all want—greater power for this House, and so for the people.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I note the attempt of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) to be constructive on this occasion. My only comment is that he has not been much more successful than usual.
I was pleased with the way in which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister introduced the debate, because of his full praise for the Fulton Committee, which was endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but much more because of his commitment to implement the Report, especially his ready acceptance of the need for the Civil Service College and his recognition of the early need for a Civil Service Department. What pleases me most, because I feel that this is the key to the whole question, is his acceptance of the open structure of the Civil Service replacing the complicated arrangements of grades which were the barrier to its proper development.
I must confess my debt to both my colleagues, with whom I felt honoured 1607 to be associated during these long years, and to those who gave evidence willingly and easily.
I approach the whole of this problem from the point of view of my own needs and expectations of the Civil Service. What I want from the Civil Service is the implementing and carrying out of the policy which I feel to be desirable, together, of course, with the continuing need for an effective administration with its ideals of fairness and efficiency. The ordinary processes of administration and the carrying out of the Government's policy are largely interwoven, and it is not easy at any one stage to say where one ends and another begins. To take a rather complex matter, prosperity is so much partly political and partly administrative. One finds this interdependence in so many respects that the separation of the two, the need to carry out a particular party's policy and the need to produce administration, is much more difficult.
The intermingling of the public and private sectors has led to the need for change in both the Civil Service and civil servants to produce the men and the organisation required. We only have to think of the Government involvement in the computer industry, the shipbuilding industry, Government help in rationalising certain industries, encouraging mergers and taking a part in British industry today, to know that the old frontiers between what is public and what is private administration are becoming that much more blurred. What we need is an organisation which takes note of this blurring and produces the kind of people we need to deal with it. We all know that Whitehall does not know best, and we know that it ought to know a great deal better. If there are to be these areas, whichever Government is in power, where such blurring exists, we need the kind of people who will make those decisions in the interests, not only of the Government, or civil servants, but in the interests of British industry.
The old nineteenth century idea that the Civil Service was an organisation which held the ring and made sure that there was fair play between the competitors, largely private industry, is totally outdated. The Government are not in the position of an arbiter any more. For example, in the Department of Employ- 1608 ment and Productivity, in this area where one would have thought there were solid, important reasons for the Government to be neutral between management and employees, the Government have, wrongly to my mind, involved themselves by saying that they have an interest which they must pursue. This attitude of Government involving themselves in all parts of the economic industrial framework is obviously growing and cannot be held back.
It is there and is growing, because the people of this country say so. It is not the views of the Government which determine this, but the views of the people. Whenever anything goes right or wrong, the Government get the blame or praise, and the people attribute blame or praise to the Government and no one else. We say the best example of this in the "Torrey Canyon" disaster. As soon as the "Torrey Canyon" ran aground we heard the cry, "What are the Government doing about it?" In the nineteenth century, if a Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister had heard that the "Torrey Canyon" or its equivalent had run aground, he would have turned over in his sleep and that would have been the end of it. It would have been something for the ship-owners or the poor people who found oil on their beaches. In this case it was understood and expected that the Government were directly involved.
This is part of the process we have seen, particularly in the post-war years. When Macmillan won his election in 1959 it was because he was held to be responsible for the economic state of the country. Whether it was right or wrong, his Government were voted into power because of that. As soon as one claims responsibility when things are successful one finds blame attributed when things are unsuccessful. It is the people who decide that the Government are responsible for these matters and whether it is true or untrue, Governments will be elected and defeated by the way in which they carry out the important tasks which the people wish to be undertaken.
Because of this, it is necessary that any Government faced with responsibility must find the means of implementing that responsibility. So, a whole range of new tasks are being imposed upon civil 1609 servants which were not imposed before. Coupled with these new tasks is the increasing complexity of the whole industrial and economic framework. The whole of society is becoming much more complex.
§ Mr. David Howell
Does the hon. Gentleman not feel too that the Government have a responsibility for guiding people and explaining to them what they cannot do, explaining the limitation of their actions, say, in the controlling of prices? If they claim they can influence prices they will be blamed when they cannot do so. Is there not a danger of claiming too much responsibility?
§ Mr. Sheldon
I have not said that the Government should try to claim responsibility for everything. There is an increasing feeling that the Government are responsible and will be held responsible. It may be that they might go ahead of the field at any moment, but this is a minor point. As society grows more complex, as the demand by civil servants for greater responsibility grows, there is the need for these changes within the Civil Service machine. We also have to pin down within that machine the responsibility for decisions being attributed to individuals.
I have never been a believer in collective responsibility. Leaving aside the Cabinet aspect of this, which is a particular one, we all know that collective responsibility can very often be a means of avoiding responsibility. What we also need within the Civil Service is the ability to lay the blame or heap the praise upon individuals so that they can be rewarded when they have been successful or be reproved when they have been unsuccessful. The difficulty at present is being able to praise or blame individuals. They are moving around so fast that one is dealing more with a body of men and less with individuals. At the end of the day it is individuals who count, who must be rewarded or reproved.
The other complexity in the Civil Service is the way in which issues interlock one with the other. The idea that one can attack a problem on its own, solve it and implement it without anything else being changed, is something of the past. If one decides that one is to have an increased school building pro- 1610 gramme, we know that it will have an impact on the building programme generally, on land resources and so on. If one wants to build more hospitals, we have to consider the supply of doctors and things like the educational programme. Every big undertaking the Government accept, and most of the decisions of Government are big in the absolute sense, too, have an enormous impact on a whole range of problems which have to be considered in order to produce a successful solution.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Did the Fulton Committee find any problem in establishing some kind of meaningful criteria by which individual performance could be judged? Surely, by its very nature, what a civil servant does may only be judged over a five- to ten-year period.
§ Mr. Sheldon
We went into this question. Although one cannot, except on a long-term programme, prove that a civil servant's solution happened to be the most successful solution, in practice one can define the nature of the work carried out, and make a judgment in the same way as we are judged here. We are judged on whether we sound reasonable and convincing. It is this that determines many of our attitudes. This may be wrong, but it is the best way one has in the limited time scale available.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Take, for example, the Ministry of Transport. We are judged not according to what we do, but by what our predecessors of whatever party did five or eight years beforehand.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I accept that there is the obvious problem of a four-year Parliament and 10-year decisions, and the necessity to match these. However, if my hon. Friend will allow me I will not go into this, as I have a fairly lengthy speech.
The main point is that this increase in complexity means that if we are to study the ramifications of any policy thoroughly, we need to have a collective decision-making process, involving a number of outside interests. It is not enough for Whitehall to get a number of people within its organisation to make the decision and then announce it. If one is to take into account all the consequences arising from a decision of that magnitude, one needs also to take into 1611 the decision-making a number of the outsiders as well. We are seeing nowadays a greater degree of consultation. This is one of the big changes that we have seen in the last 10 or 15 years.
I go back therefore to my earlier point, that if we are to bring about the changes which I want to see we need to get in Whitehall not only civil servants who are good, but civil servants who understand the changing nature of the problem which they have to face. Although at one time it was acceptable to have the Greats man in large numbers in the Civil Service, today, with its involvement in industry, we also need a large number of people who are prepared to operate within the field of Government relations with industry.
One of the great problems for all civil servants is the nature of their responsibilities. The prime purpose of a civil servant as he sees it himself is to look after his Minister and to carry out his Minister's policy and views. We have, therefore, from the Permanent Secretary downwards, a whole range of people primarily looking upwards to the Permanent Secretary. However, these Ministries have grown in size and complexity, and so there is a management problem at the same time. Therefore, although we have a structure which is looking up to feeding the Permanent Secretary, this has tended in many cases to take the place of a structure designed to manage the whole of the Department. This management function has been very much neglected. With the running of an organisation of over 400,000 people, the management function has become extremely important.
The task of obtaining this level of expertise in the Civil Service is made more difficult not only by the kind of recruitment that I would tend to oppose. I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about this. There is, I think, a strong case for "relevance" which the majority of the Committee proposed. Where it can be shown that a certain body of knowledge is more likely to be obtained when one is a young man, preferably as an undergraduate at a university, in an increasing number of cases knowledge of that kind is unlikely to be obtained later. Mathematics is probably one of the best examples. If a 1612 person is not a mathematician by his early twenties, he rarely becomes one later.
There are many more areas which have this specialised body of expertise which cannot be read up later and assimilated in quite the same way. I believe that the areas of specialised knowledge which needs to be attained early in life is growing. In many areas of economics, for example, the subject is no longer one which can be read up in later years.
There are, of course, gifted exceptions to every rule, but in the main, if people with specialised knowledge are needed, it is just as well to try to go out and get them rather than make good the deficiencies later. This is my argument, not for recruiting the specialists instead of other people, but for giving them some sort of preference in the marking scheme. With a total of, say, 300 marks, perhaps 10 might be awarded for a preference of that kind.
If we really want economists, mathematicians and engineers, it is no use putting them together with a whole pile of people who cannot find jobs outside the Civil Service as easily as engineers can find jobs outside the Service. In the marking scheme, it is just as well to give marks to the people one particularly wants to introduce into the Civil Service. If the other people are more gifted, they would get their marks accordingly. Thus we would get a group of gifted people and others which would give the kind of mix that is required.
We must not assume that the Civil Service today is recruited purely on brain power. Many people with first-class degrees are rejected by the Civil Service and many with upper seconds are accepted in their place. We must not assume we understand fully these absolute requirements. We shall say that there is a range of talents which we require and we need a recruitment agency to take account of these talents.
We know that at present there is little possibility of people acquiring sufficient expertise within the organisation. In the Report of the Management Consultancy Group, we have seen that administrators other than assistant principals average a period of 2.8 years in all their completed jobs in a particular class. In my view, 2.8 years is not nearly adequate 1613 to master a job, to find out what it is all about and then to be able to impose upon that job the special expertise which has been gained from living with the job.
When the Committee talked about the cult of the amateur, the generalist, the all-rounder, or however one chooses to describe him, what it had in mind was this constant movement around. That constant movement had a purpose, because it was designed to give people who had no particular knowledge a breadth of experience. This whole movement was designed to give a breadth of experience rather than the depth of experience which is required. There is a necessity for depth of experience so that although a civil servant may not know everything in his Ministry or a range of Ministries, he will know something about the particular job he is doing and about a related job to which he is likely to be transferred as a result of his success in the job which he undertakes. This is what planned promotion is all about.
Civil servants at present need that breadth of experience. If they find themselves in one particular job, they are condemned to having far fewer opportunities in the grade above. When a civil servant is recruited or promoted to a grade, he is expected to do a whole range of jobs within that grade. If he can do only three or four jobs, but do them extremely well, that is not enough. It is enough in industry and in most organisations and it ought to be enough in the Civil Service.
The scientists and the engineers who have found themselves in the neglected parts of the Civil Service also need to be fitted in within this open structure so that a certain job is open not simply to the level of administrator or executive beneath. It needs to be open to all those who can make a contribution to the job and who can bring their talents best to bear upon it.
It is no use having a system of experts who are called in and consulted from time to time, because so many jobs depend upon the whole range of talents within an individual being used. Not every decision can be best taken by bringing in advisers to fill in the gaps of one's own knowledge. There are opportunities, too, for bringing engineers 1614 within the management field, as is regularly done in industry, and for bringing in accountants and economists—not, of course, to the exclusion of everyone else, but where they are felt to be in the interests of the Service and where they can be fitted in and promoted, both for their own development as individuals working within the Civil Service and for the benefit of the Service as a whole. Because of this, the Committee felt that the planning of the career of the civil servant was crucial. In order to consider that matter, we had to think of the recruitment, promotion and training of the Civil Service as an integrated whole.
It is no use one body doing the recruiting and another body grumbling about the kind of men it receives and yet another body training them to remedy the deficiences of people who should not have been recruited in the first place. People responsible for recruits must know the kind of people they will eventually become and the people responsible for training must have some influence on recruitment. Only when we can plan the development of individuals within this organisation will we be able to produce the kind of men we require and bring the best out of people and avoid the frustration of individuals feeling that they have not been used properly. This integration to bring about a feed-back from the user departments will be valuable.
The very unsatisfactory arrangements of the Civil Service Selection Board are fully documented in the Report. We found that although the tests are quite valuable and the way in which an individual is recruited into the Civil Service and then goes before the Civil Service Selection Board and the way in which he is analysed may be objective enough, what happens is that he receives a certain number of marks which are then fudged, and which then go before a board which considers the matter and makes an assessment based on its view and the marks which he received before. This fudging is wrong.
But that is not all. Not only is there fudging at that stage. There is two-tier fudging, because a person comes before the final selection board which may make another assessment based on marks which have been fudged by the first selection board. It decides what it thinks of the 1615 person and then more marks are banded into four categories only. To start with a quite respectable way of assessing the value of an individual and then to get a two-stage fudging by selection boards, over half of whose members are near retirement or over retirement age, makes nonsense of the planned system of selection. We need integration between recruitment, training and promotion. We have at present a scheme which is not suited to the needs of the Civil Service of the future.
I come to the plans for the open structure which I am particularly pleased to see incorporated in the Report. At the moment, the structure is an utter maze. Hardly anybody can understand it. There are 47 general classes spread throughout the Service in more than one Department. There are 1,400 departmental classes within single Departments, each with its own promotion grades and structures.
What pleased me most about the Prime Minister's speech was his statement that he did not intend to drag his feet on this fundamental reform, which is the key to reform of the Civil Service. If we are to bring about the changes which I hope to see made, we need to do very much more about personnel management so that we can use to the full all the varied talents coming into the Civil Service from its areas of recruitment. We need to make the fullest use of people to their advantage and to the advantage of the Service. There is a barrier against opportunity for transfer from one class to another. The chances of using people in the best way are hindered by the existence of these 47 general classes and 1,400 departmental classes.
I should like to refer to the planning unit, which was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. I see the function of the unit working out perhaps rather better than the right hon. Gentleman. There is a range of possibilities for a planning unit, with its senior policy adviser, to work out possibilities for development within a certain time scale. Problems can be foreseen, and although the solutions of both political parties may not be the same, at least they will lie within a certain range. Fact-finding, gathering statistics and the enunciation of problems will be of immense value to whichever party is in power. The possibility 1616 of planning units comparing and understanding problems in advance as well as suggesting a number of possibilities for implementing solutions to them will be valuable not only to the present Government but to any future Government. This matter can be treated separately from purely party political considerations.
I come to the question of the machinery of government, which was outside the terms of reference of the Committee, which has been mentioned today. The Prime Minister was absolutely right. I am convinced that an examination of the machinery of government cannot be valuably carried out today because problems are rapidly changing. Changes are taking place within Civil Service Departments as they join together, and we have a number of examples of that this year. By the time a committee reported on this question, the solutions which it would be discussing would be well out of date. Therefore, unfortunately, there are not many general propositions which one can put forward. It is right that the Government should try to produce the solutions which they require as they go along. The Commission on the Constitution should cover the constitutional questions.
I come finally to the responsibility and rights of the House. As we increase the power of the Civil Service, so we need to increase the effectiveness of this House. The power of Executive has grown, and we all understand the need to increase the power of this House to investigate and to question it. We know the need; I am not sure that we have a solution to the problem. If we are to make the Civil Service more efficient and thereby more effective, we will need to question it as well. There will be a great need either for the development of Specialist Committees or perhaps an integration between Specialist Committees and Standing Committees examining legislation. Civil servants will have to be involved in this process. It is obvious that this matter is full of difficulty, but the one must go hand-in-hand with the other. There is need for a check on the Executive. The question of a check on the Civil Service will need to be equally well studied. These are the great problems before us which will take a number of years to resolve.
I was very proud to serve on the Committee and to receive congratulations 1617 from many people on the work of the Committee. It tackled some of the main problems. The full implementation of its Report at the earliest possible moment would, I believe, be the finest fulfilment of its work.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)
I hesitate to promise to make a short speech, since I find on looking at the record that I have been rather more successful in making the promises than in keeping them. At least I promise those waiting that I will try.
We have heard an interesting speech from the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon). I must tell him straight away that there are a number of points on which I did not agree with him. I lean very much more to the Prime Minister's views on the question of relevant studies than to the view the hon. Gentleman expressed.
In another part of his speech, I think that the hon. Gentleman did not express himself as clearly as he might have wished. That was when he referred to the degree of intervention by government in our lives. We accept that the extent to which the Government are responsible, or ought to be responsible, for what is going on is growing. In response to an intervention by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell), the hon. Gentleman said that he thought that this was a minor matter. I presume he meant that this was a minor matter in relation to his general argument. He will surely agree that this is a fundamental matter, perhaps fundamental even to this whole issue.
§ Dr. Winstanley
I do not think that I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I have just said that I think that he did not express himself clearly. At least let us make it clear that the extent to which the Government intervene is an important matter.
I myself rather regret what I think is a modern delusion, namely, that every problem has a political solution. This is an illusion or delusion which is rather fostered by the Press, TV and radio, and by the communications industry 1618 generally. Perhaps it is an illusion which is fostered by those involved in politics. I sometimes wish, when problems such as the balance of payments or whatever it may be occur, that instead of people turning automatically towards Westminster for the answers, they would turn towards their own lives, their own companies, their own work, their own trade union, their own affairs at home. This is perhaps not crucial to this argument, but I think that it is a highly important subject in general.
I was much more interested in the Prime Minister's conclusions on the Fulton Report and in the observations of the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) on the Report than I was in the Report itself. It is not that I disagree fundamentally with the Report in any way, though I most certainly disagree with the general theme of the first chapter on amateurism. I agree with those hon. Members who have expressed disapproval of this chapter. Again I disagree with the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, who I think tended to reinforce the view expressed in this chapter.
I lean much more to the view expressed by Professor Lord Simey in his Reservation to Chapter 1:…the Civil Service needs nothing more, and nothing less, than the best brains known to teachers in schools and universities".I take that view of the kind of professionalism required.
It seems to me that in an occupation like the Civil Service any person under 26 or 27 is, almost by definition, an amateur. We are not dealing with subjects of a technical nature in which study begins early and continues to a final point. We are dealing with the kind of occupation in which people acquire expertise and professionalism as they learn the job in the job. We are coming to that later with the Civil Service College and in the other matters of business training, and so on, which have been discussed in other speeches. I do not like this part on amateurism and I do not regard a kind of bogus professionalism as a substantial advance on amateurism itself.
§ Sir E. Boyle
The hon. Gentleman argues that anyone up to his middle twenties is amateur. Is this quite true in this context? Is it not true that a 1619 man who has recently been trained in certain disciplines is more likely to be able to carry on a discussion with a true expert in those disciplines without demanding that everything be translated into layman's language?
§ Dr. Winstanley
I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman in that sense, but perhaps what he says is rather more related to the general argument about relevant studies. I shall come to that later and then I perhaps can deal with this point.
When I said that I was more impressed by and interested in the comments of both Front Bench speakers than by the Report itself, that was not a criticism of the Report. However, I think that there are certain defects in the Report which arise partly from the nature of Government inquiries in general and partly from a specific limitation of this inquiry.
I was very interested in an article by Professor Max Beloff in The Times of 12th November, in which he links the Plowden Report with the Fulton Report and says this:The Plowden Report like the Fulton Report was a testimony to the almost inevitable tendency of government-sponsored inquiries to examine everything except their own major premises. Instead of looking first at the purposes that the institutions they investigate are supposed to serve, and proceeding from there, they normally do little more than register the current conventional wisdom of Westminster and Whitehall.In a sense, what Professor Beloff is implying is that this Report, like its predecessors on the Civil Service, is more concerned with structure than with function, although it is true that in its early stages it announces that it is very anxious to be concerned with function rather than with structure.
Another point Professor Beloff makes is thatOne of the explanations of the manifest failure of the Fulton Committee on the Civil Service to produce a satisfactory general appreciation of the problems with which it was confronted, and for the somewhat inchoate set of solutions which it offered to them, must be found in the exclusion from its terms of reference of the vast and increasing area of government business that involves relations with other countries.That point was delt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and also by the Prime Minister 1620 when he referred to the study which is going on under Sir Val Duncan. It is relevant.
Professor Beloff also refers to what was said by the Shell Petroleum Company to the Fulton Committee, namely:'The need for Civil Servants other than those of the traditionally overseas departments to become internationally-minded is already pressing and, should Britain be accepted as a member of the Common Market, will be paramount'.Nothing that the Fulton Committee has suggested will do much to meet the need and some of the proposals might go even further to produce what the Shell Company referred to as 'Civil Servants who are somewhat over-orientated to the United Kingdom and whose appreciation of the problems of an international group is correspondingly impaired'.I think that the Report is perhaps deficient in that sense. It may not be its fault. It may be the fault of its terms of reference. We know that another Committee is sitting. The Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister referred to this. I am sure that it is necessary to look very much more to the international implications of almost everything the Civil Service does. It must be accepted that Civil Service Departments cannot be divided for all time into those which are concerned with things at home and those which are concerned with things not at home. Nowadays, everything concerns everything. The sooner we recognise this in the construction of the Civil Service the better.
On the question of possible excessive preoccupation with structure and with the individuals who make up the Civil Service rather than with function, I think that the Report is merely following an example which the House sets and which we all set over and over again. On Tuesday and Wednesday the House debated the matter of the reform of the Second Chamber. We constantly discuss what a reformed second Chamber should be like before we discuss what it should do. I do not think that it is possible to decide on its structure until we have decided on its function.
The same applies to regional government and to other pressing matters that leap to the mind. Here, too, it is very important that we think about function. That means that we should be thinking about the machinery of government in general. I certainly agree with what has been said on both sides of the House 1621 about the need for an inquiry into the machinery of government and the need to relate such an inquiry into the machinery of government to any inquiry into the Civil Service; and there is the need to relate structure and selection to function and to what is to be done by those who are selected.
I was very interested in the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) did the right hon. Gentleman less than justice and implied that there was something almost disreputable about the Leader of the Opposition praising the Civil Service.
One ought to appreciate that it happened, that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said what he did, because I have regretted the tendency of certain members of the Conservative Party to indulge in general attacks on the Civil Service. However, it was quite clear that the Leader of the Conservative Party—and tribute should be paid to him for this—was not attacking the Civil Service, but attacking the functions which it has to carry out. He made it clear, and many of his colleagues have not made this clear, that when talking about a reduction in the Civil Service he was asking for a reduction in its functions. It was high time this was said clearly from this side of the House. There are many on this side of the House who have not said that.
To go about saying, "The Inland Revenue should be cut by 10 per cent." unless one says anything else to qualify it, means that one is saying that the public should have to wait 10 per cent. longer for replies to their letters, or 10 per cent. longer before they get overpayments of tax paid back. If at the same time as saying that the Inland Revenue should be cut one says we should simplify the tax system so that then we could cut the Civil Service, that would be a sensible thing to say, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman did say and I hope that it is what some of his colleagues will start saying, instead of saying some of the things which some of them have been saying.
I want to deal with two specific points in the Report itself. First, the question of relevant studies. The Prime Minister 1622 rather dismissed this, because he said he did not accept this part of the Report; this was a part of the Report which had not been accepted and that the Government were not proceeding along those lines. The Leader of the Opposition said the same and appeared to welcome the rejection of this recommendation. The Prime Minister said that there were, of course, different views in the House. I did not realise the extent to which those different views exist until I heard them expressed by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne. Since there are different views about this, I think that it is important that I make clear what at least are my views, as perhaps, they are also those of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
Paragraph 75 ends with these words:But a majority of us consider that the relevance to their future work of the subject-matter of their university or other pre-Service studies should be an important qualification for appointment.This statement was criticised, as I understand it, by the Prime Minister on the grounds that it would reduce the number of applicants and would, perhaps, deprive us of many people of great ability who did not fulfil this criterion. I agree with that. Not only would there be fewer candidates if any such premium were placed on so-called relevant subjects, but people would be excluded to the detriment of the Service, and that in this section a short-sighted, narrow-minded pragmatism was at work.
That point should be clearly recognised, but I think there is another which we ought to comment upon and which is of importance to relevance. I take the view—I do not know whether it is shared by other hon. Members or not—that people who study the social sciences tend to fall into a specific category of political attitudes. It was interesting that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition suffered a somewhat Freudian lapse for a moment when he referred to sociologists as Socialists. He rapidly corrected himself. However, people who study subjects of that kind do tend, I think, to lean towards the Left in politics—which I do not regret for a moment. All I say is that it would be a mistake to tend to concentrate selection for the Civil Service on people who follow a specific or certain kind or type of study which would tend to produce a Civil Service 1623 which would lean excessively towards one point of view in politics.
As a Liberal I must say that I stand for the greatest possible variety of thinking, and I, personally, would deplore the application of a particular view which tended to fill the Civil Service with people of a particular type of political thinking. The hon. Member opposite laughs. It is not funny. [Interruption.] I assure him it is not rubbish, it is true.
§ Mr. Anderson
Would the hon. Gentleman accept that if the Government were to recruit too many L.S.E. Socialists they might be caught lying down on the job?
§ Dr. Winstanley
I am not quite sure I follow the precise implication of that remark. I am not sure the hon. Member does. All I say is that in an occupation of this kind it is surely important to recruit from the widest possible spectrum, bearing in mind the kind of qualities which one wants. I do not think one wants to concentrate on people of a certain type irrespective of whether they are better or worse and I think that concentration on a certain type would not be helpful and would not serve the long-term interest of the Civil Service. So much, then, for the question of relevant studies.
The second point is about the Civil Service College. I was very interested indeed in what was said by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on this. There was a remarkable degree of agreement—total agreement between the two Front Benches; and there has been a good deal of agreement amongst the back benches; and if agreement were also expressed by my own Front Bench we should have complete agreement in this House, which would be rather unusual these days.
There was agreement on the question of a Civil Service College, but I was interested in what the Leader of the Opposition had to say about the question of business schools. Certainly, these could be brought in more and more. It was suggested that civil servants might do training at business schools. These would tend to be staffed by people representing a variety of views. I myself take the view that it would be preferable to have a Civil Service College staffed by 1624 civil servants rather than have it overloaded with dons.
It was said that we should bring in business people into the training of civil servants. Unfortunately, we are reaching the time when business men who were involved with Civil Service activities during the war have now largely disappeared. Therefore, the kind of businessmen one would bring in would not be the businessmen who had previously acquired knowledge of public accountability through having been in the Civil Service, and I do not think it would be helpful to bring in businessmen in that way; but I think it would be helpful to follow the suggestion which has been made of allowing civil servants to study at business courses, and I think it possible, not merely that this should be additional training but that it may be possible for certain candidates to spend part of their time at the Civil Service College and part of their time at a business college. I think there might be some advance along those lines. I look forward to hearing of more people taking such studies than do now, and it would help to create a degree of flexibility in training for the Civil Service. I personally, and, I am sure, my hon. Friends, would prefer a concentration on that kind of training, rather than on new methods of selection earlier by selecting students who had studied specific matters at school or university.
The Leader of the Opposition referred in glowing terms to the Ombudsman and to the Ombudsman's activities being increased, and he also referred to the use of Specialist Committees. I hope that these will be increased. However, he is the Leader of the Opposition and I speak for a party which has been in Opposition for a very considerable time and I cannot fail to notice that enthusiasm for machinery of this kind tends to wane on the Government side. Admittedly, the Government introduced the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, but it was not very long before they began to wonder what kind of Frankenstein they had given birth to, and not very long before we began to hear questions about undermining the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility. It was the Government who did much to accelerate the establishment of Specialist Committees, but, having set them up, we 1625 have recently seen efforts to truncate and amputate them, and we have heard doubts expressed about their desirability. Therefore, I was very glad to hear So firm a commitment from the Leader of the Opposition that this is the kind of machinery which should be given greater authority, rather than the Government, and I hope we can hear more views of that kind.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman praises the Leader of the Opposition for his intentions rather than the Government for carrying them out.
§ Dr. Winstanley
For this reason; that I am always glad to hear of somebody making a public commitment. It is my melancholy experience that certain people in government would like nothing more than to lock this place up and send us all home. I do not believe that Governments in general are very anxious to have an efficient House of Commons. The Government governs and not the House of Commons, and the attitude of the Government is that the House of Commons tries to stop them from doing so. I applaud a public commitment to measures which would give greater authority to this House rather than to the Government. It is true that I have heard these public commitments from the Opposition, but I have also heard some signs in that direction from the Government Front Bench, and we ought to support them.
As many hon. Members have said, I too, believe that we have a Civil Service which is quite remarkable in many ways, a Civil Service whose integrity, industry, efficiency and application to the job are the envy of the world. I hope that we shall give it new opportunities for improvement. I much regret the growing tendency to attack both politics and the civil servants. The Parliamentary democratic system which has evolved in this country is the only method the world has yet devised of creating order without tyranny. I frequently indulge in criticisms of the Parliamentary process, but I do so in order to protect it, to make it last and to make it work. I sometimes indulge in criticism of the Civil Service. I do so in order to protect that also, and anything that we can do to improve the Civil Service and help 1626 it to work will be in the long term interests of all of us. The right hon. Lady has an important task before her and we wish her well in it.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Coe (Middleton and Prestwich)
Any Committee which brings forward a report as comprehensive and wide-ranging as the Fulton Report is bound to attract a certain amount of criticism, but the strength of the Report is shown by the fact that those criticisms are of details and not of the major recommendations. I welcome the Report, as other hon. Members have done. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) served with distinction on the Fulton Committee, and I enjoyed listening to his speech.
A change such as is suggested in the Fulton Report must have the co-operation of the civil servants, and that is why I join with other hon. Members who regret the unfortunate Chapter 1, although, to be fair to the Committee, the later chapters and volumes tend to put the record straight. We must face the fact that the initial impact of this chapter with its emphasis on the amateur aspect has received more publicity than we would have wished, but I am sure that the civil servants will now recognise that the Committee did not wish to place undue emphasis upon it.
I welcome the progress which has already been made by the Government in accepting the major recommendations, and also the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon. I wish to comment briefly on three aspects of the Report: the use of manpower, the administrative changes suggested by the Report, and the section, which in my view is very important, on the Civil Service and the community.
Looking first at the use of manpower, I welcome the abolition of the classes. This will break the log jam and facilitate comprehensive changes in the use of civil servants in order fully to utilise their talents. The compartmentalising of the Civil Service has been an immense drawback, as the Committee made clear. I agree with the noble Lord who spoke in the other place that job evaluation, on which the Committee placed such emphasis, is perhaps more difficult than the Report suggests. Secondly, I welcome 1627 the assurance of my right hon. Friend that the Civil Service unions will be fully and continuously consulted on the changes which will be necessary.
I agree with the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. M. P. Winstanley) on recruitment. I too find it a little difficult to accept the "preference for relevance" mentioned by the Committee and I am glad that the Government are not prepared to go ahead with that. With the fluidity provided by the abolition of the classes we shall be able to look for the best intellectual manpower available, and the suggestion about relevance in the Report will not help. I am pleased that the recruitment processes will be speeded up. As the Committee found, a number of recruits are lost because of the delay which occurs before they are told the results of examinations and other entrance procedures.
I welcome the setting up of the Civil Service College. I was surprised that a number of noble Lords in the other place, distinguished ex-civil servants and the like, said that they were not too happy about the need for the Civil Service College. This matter ought to be looked at in its context, and I believe that we should have a proper Civil Service College set up to carry on the work which has already been started in the Centre for Administrative Studies. I make one qualification. I am concerned, as I always have been, at the way in which civil servants, and, indeed, teachers and those in other professions, go straight to a job from their academic training. This is a great pity when they will be spending so much time dealing with people.
I am glad to hear that outsiders will also take part in the new Civil Service College, and that there will be interchange between civil servants and others. There should be a way in which intending civil servants could be enabled to gain experience outside the Civil Service before they are completely committed to it. I would welcome any comments which my right hon. Friend might have on that in winding up.
I would also like to ask her about research. What link will there be between research carried out at the College and the new Civil Service Department, the Cabinet Office or any other Department? 1628 There should be a marrying up of the information in a way which has not occurred in the past. I also welcome the interchange between civil servants and other occupations which is suggested. This can be done now without delay. I would like to see civil servants going particularly into local government as soon as possible.
On the administrative changes, Treasury control as we have known it in the past needs to be studied. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell) feels much the same as I do on this, that we need to look at what we mean by Treasury control, not just saving candle ends, or, alternatively, not looking ahead to long term policy decisions on finance. I would be interested to hear what changes are likely to take place.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he said that it was absolutely necessary that the new Civil Service Department should not be a part of the Treasury but should be a cross section of members of different Departments of the Civil Service.
On policy planning and decision making, if there is a senior policy adviser, which I quite accept, I am a little worried that he should have, as the Committee suggests, complete access to the Minister regardless of the Permanent Secretary. There is a slight danger here, and I would like to think further about this. I can see the possibility of ministerial favourites, or difficulties within the department.
I was very pleased to see in Page 92 in the section of the Report entitled "The Civil Service and the Community" the following sentence:It is an abuse of consultation when it is turned into a belated attempt to prepare the ground for decisions that have in reality been taken already.This is very much at the root of the problem that the Civil Service faces when it is dealing with the community. Very often, it is blamed unfairly for its actions but, as the Committee makes clear, no doubt there are occasions when secrecy within the Civil Service about decisions which Ministers have taken is quite unnecesary. By making matters more public, we could create a confidence in 1629 the public service which sometimes is unnecessarily lacking.
That is why I was glad to see this section in the Report. It raises the question of the individual and the State and the feeling that individuals are being ignored by governments. It also draws attention to the problem of public attitudes to the Civil Service. The present Government have helped to solve these problems. As the hon. Member for Cheadle reminded us, they have set up the office of Parliamentary Commissioner. I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition has been partially converted where he was not quite so keen before, but, whatever he says now, this is an important office. It is one which will grow in importance and, obviously, it will help in improving the attitude of the public towards the Civil Service if it is felt that people's grievances will be dealt with. The changes in planning appeals which have ben made will also help the public attitude to the Civil Service.
The Committee was a little unfair in trying to suggest that if only we followed the example of a country like Sweden, we would be better able to cope with problems of public accountability, and so on. The fact must be faced that when we look at the position of Parliament, as opposed to that of the individual, in relation to the Civil Service, in this country we still believe, quite rightly, in a system of Parliamentary checks. It is one which everyone in this House would wish to see strengthened. The section in the Report on the importance of the Civil Service and Parliament should be given special attention and I am glad that a number of hon. Members have referred to it in their speeches.
I want to pinpoint two sentences in that section. They say that Members of Parliament should be more purposively associated with the work of government and that the methods of Parliamentary scrutiny have often failed to enlarge Parliament's knowledge of what the Executive are doing. That is very true.
I welcome the specific reference in the Report to Select Committees. As one of those who believe in Parliamentary reform, naturally I believe enthusiastically in the power of Select Committees to play an important part in checking the Executive. That is why I urge upon 1630 my right hon. Friend, if she needs any urging, that they should be extended over the sphere of government in the next few years. It is the right way to redress any imbalance between the Executive and this House. I would add, however, that the position is nothing like as bad as is sometimes suggested. I get rather tired when hon. Members opposite claim that Governments are now all powerful and that Parliament is completely powerless. I cannot help feeling sometimes that it is a criticism of this Government, rather than a true criticism of the power of a Parliamentary democracy.
I turn now to the future changes, which seem to have played an important part in the debate so far. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne reminded us of the increased sphere of Government activity. We have to recognise that the Fulton changes will take place against this background, the regional policies of Government Departments which are increasing and proving very helpful in the regions, local government reform, and the machinery of government. In the last respect, I was especially pleased to hear my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister remind us of the very important changes which have been made since 1964 in the Departments concerned with defence, Commonwealth and foreign affairs, and health and social security matters. It is right that we should now move one stage further and deal with the Departments concerned with economic affairs. I have said many times that I would like to see the Department of Economic Affairs, which is doing a very important job, joined up with the Board of Trade. The two together could make a very effective unit.
The machinery of government ought to be in the hands of the Cabinet Office. It is likely to be subject to continuous change and should therefore be reviewed continually. In another place, Baroness Sharp pointed out that we can do a great deal in the way of Civil Service reform but, unless we tackle the machinery of government at the same time, much of our reform will not be as great as it might be.
Those are some of my observations on the Report. I am glad that it makes clear time and again that the members 1631 of the Committee found from their investigations in all parts of the country that the Civil Service contains men and women of very high integrity and great ability and that the devotion to duty in the Service should make everyone in this House extremely proud.
As a result of the Report and the promises which my right hon. Friend has made today, I hope that we shall push ahead quickly with the suggested changes so that the Civil Service will be ready to face the latter half of the 20th century.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
I want to confine myself to four points. At the outset, I should say that I want to make a more fundamental criticism than anything contained in the speeches to which we have listened from both Front Benches. I hope, however, that it will not be thought that I do not appreciate the immensely important value of many of the recommendations in the Report, and the usefulness of the contributions of such people as the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). From the speech of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, it was clear that his work and thinking had a considerable influence on certain parts of the Report.
My first point relates to the circumstances in which this debate takes place. Considering all that has been said on both sides of the House about the importance of Parliamentary accountability, it is nothing less than bizarre that the debate should take place after one of the main recommendations has been adopted and while the second recommendation is being implemented. I understand why that is so. Other business crowded out the programme. But there is a more fundamental reason, and it arises from the thinking which says that there is something called administration and something else called policy, and that they are separate. It is the argument that policy is for politicians and that, on the whole, administration is marginal to politicians which should not concern them. That distinction, which runs through many utterances on the need for Civil Service reform, is basically fallacious and false.
1632 The whole point of our concern in this House is that the administrative wing of government today has become deeply concerned in the formulation and carrying out of public policy. One of today's vital needs is to broaden the confrontation between the policy-making Administration and the elected representatives of the public in this House.
Much of what we have to say about the reform of the Civil Service must come back to the central point of restoring the accountability of a modern administration and making the free society a reality rather than a form and shadow. In this context the Report has to be judged, even if it seems unfair, when one considers the Committee's narrow terms of reference.
I should like to make three specific criticisms. In making these criticisms, I repeat, first, that I appreciate the value of many of the recommendations and, secondly, that more or less everything I say excludes the excellent Chapter 5 where the influence of Dr. Hunt and his team is so strong and where it seems that for once in the Report—there are other instances, but mainly in Chapter 5—the real issues of structure and functions are raised. I regret that these issues are not allowed, by the terms of reference, to be faced up to so much in other chapters of Volume 1.
My first criticism is one that others have made. However, I think that it should be made more strongly. It is that in Chapter 1, and in other chapters, there runs the assumption that the defects of the Civil Service are the fault of civil servants. I believe this assumption to be totally wrong. The Report goes on to say that the greatest fault of all is this gifted amateurism, about which we have all spoken.
I believe that the attempt to blame the Civil Service—because that is what it is—is not a cure for our problem, but part of the disease. There is not all that much wrong with the intellectual qualities or capacities of our public officials. I would argue that the belief that civil servants are in some way to blame for the many difficulties and bad decisions of government blind people to the real problem and, in part, blinded members of the Fulton Committee.
1633 The real problem is rooted in the procedures by which civil servants are required and forced to make decisions, and in a system of financial accountability which is over 100 years out of date. It is this professional deformation, as it has been called, which is placed on civil servants and which is the root of the difficulty. Put another way, civil servants today are imprisoned in a framework which makes thrustful and cost-conscious management and good and creative running of particular programmes virtually impossible. It is wrong to put the blame on civil servants. The responsibility lies squarely on our politicians and Government to redefine the functions and the structure of government.
The difficulty which Fulton had to face was that it was being asked to look at the Civil Service without being asked to look at the tasks of the Civil Service. It was being asked to recommend on the training of men and women in the future for the 1970s and 1980s without having a specific and clear idea of what that training was for or what kind of structure these people would have to operate in. It is not too harsh to say that this was very much a case of putting the cart before two horses. I believe that the efforts of the Committee, excellent as they were, suffered to that degree.
My second point arises from what I call the excellent Chapter 5 which deals with and raises issues on the structure of government. An essential message of that excellent Chapter 5 is that efficient public administration will be frustrated, or is frustrated, by the traditional and highly centralised methods of financial control which we currently operate in Whitehall. Again and again, Chapter 5 points to need for a delegation of budgetary responsibility not only from the Treasury to Departments, but to separate divisions, sections and autonomous agencies and units.
I believe—I hope I am not being too depressing about the effort which has gone into the Fulton Report—that we will make little progress in administrative reform and in creating an efficient bureaucracy until the Treasury abandons its detailed control in favour of more modern methods. I was glad that the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Coe) mentioned this point. The centralised detailed control of every decision in 1634 the spending Departments suffocates good management, discourages initiative, and, far from promoting economies, promotes diseconomy and waste through outdated procedures. Although it was not within the terms of reference of the Fulton Committee, one can only shrug one's shoulders and ask whether it was worth making the other recommendation if this one could not be faced at that time. The best aspects of the Fulton Report's recommendations will not achieve success unless we push at the same time towards the reform of Treasury control.
One thing that the Treasury does surrender by the recommendations of the Fulton Committee, already implemented, is control of the new Civil Service Department that has been set up, although the surrender seems a little reluctant. I understand that geographically and physically the department remains within the Treasury for the moment, but no doubt it will be moved in due course. But, even then, a question mark should be put over that. My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) put a question mark over it. Are we so sure, if we are to have a more flexible and open structure, a greater delegation of responsibility, that we need centralised control of all the senior and middle-tier senior appointments in the Civil Service vested in one Department? We need a central office to deal with pension and personnel questions certainly, but are we sure that the centralisation of the Civil Service at all levels within a Civil Service Department is any more in line with modern management needs than the centralisation of financial control in the Treasury? I would put a very large question mark over that. This is one reason why I regret that it is a fait accompli and we have not had an opportunity to make comments on it before.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If the hon. Gentleman is right—and I am afraid that he is right in a profound sense—would he not agree that it becomes a matter of urgency for this House to change the terms of reference of the Public Accounts Committee?
§ Mr. Howell
That is a new point which had not struck me. I should like to think about it. I agree that the Public Accounts Committee, which uses the Treasury as its watchdog, may even, in its best efforts, actually promote the cautiousness and 1635 lack of initiative and centralisation of responsibility that must be avoided in a Government suitable for the 1970s and 1980s.
I come to my third point of criticism. Again, I remind hon. Members that in making these criticisms I am not detracting from the work and value of the Report. Having listened with admiration to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), I find myself departing from him at right angles in some of his basic assumptions. My biggest criticism of the Fulton Report is that it fails to recognise what we can visibly see to be the changing rôle of the State in relation to the citizen society, a development which would be even clearer in the early and middle 1970s.
It seems to assume that the State will continue to be, as it has been since the war, the great provider. It seems to assume that the Government will continue to accumulate those tasks of ownership, management and control that it has accumulated to date at such a fantastic and formidable rate. Looking at the development of pressures on the Government, both in this country and other countries, I question whether this pattern will continue. It is easy to say that because in the 1960s we have seen a growing complexity and much activity of central government accumulating more and more activities, that will be the pattern that people will want in the 1970s. I do not believe that it is.
I believe that a marriage of popular pressures, of which many are felt by hon. Members, and technical necessity will force Governments in the coming decade and in the 1980s into divesting themselves of a vast range of activities and decentralising responsibility. New conditions—particularly popular pressures—will force central Governments to transfer large blocks of State activity and ownership not only back to regions and local authorities, which is something that hon. Members on both sides wish to see, but also to the price mechanism, to the individual and to the private sector.
Whether hon. Members like it or not, we have to face the idea that the State, as the great and automatic provider of more and more management functions and controls and undertakings, will be replaced by a rather different form of 1636 administration—a form of administration in which the emphasis is not so much on outright provision as on regulation.
§ Sir E. Boyle
My hon. Friend is making an extremely interesting speech. But, even assuming that he is right about that, as he may be, that there will be less outright provision, more reliance on price mechanism and more devolution to local bodies, will there still not be the complex problem of actual involvement between the central Government and outside bodies?
§ Mr. Howell
I think that there will be. I was going on to say that we have at least to get clear that in many cases the tasks of bureaucracy in the 70s and 80s—certainly the central bureaucracy—may be less concerned with management techniques and more concerned with new methods of regulation, by public enterprise or by private enterprise or by a mixture of public and private enterprise.
These new developments may be seen around the country and are mentioned in Chapter V, where they deal with the important point mentioned by the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about hiving-off activities. If we follow this through we see what is being suggested, rightly, that far from more activities being loaded on to central Government, the trend—reinforced not merely by administrative and managerial functions but also through strong popular pressures—will be to offload the activities on to those organisations and individuals who will undertake them with more efficiency and more sensitivity.
I said at the beginning that it seems to me that changes in the administrative pattern must go hand in hand with changes in the pattern of accountability to this House. We cannot let these things get out of phase, because if they do we shall get the worst of both worlds. I argue that the Report and this debate make out a vastly more important case for creating forums in this House in which high officials and those who are publicly identified with certain public programmes, and are publicly responsible for them, can state their case.
I argue that the civil servants of the future, and the kind of managers of public programmes that we want will be those 1637 who will welcome the opportunity to come before Committees of this House and to put their case and win public support, in the realisation that we are in an age when, without public support, no public programme can succeed.
§ Dr. Winstanley
Does not the hon. Member agree that the important question is not the amount of discussion that takes place with the Civil Service, but the stage at which it takes place? Do not we want discussion to take place before things have happened, rather than that they should take place now, after things have happened?
§ Mr. Howell
It must be seen as part of a continuous control process. Perhaps the reporting of officials running important programmes—as the reporting of chairmen of nationalised industries—may be done more regularly than it is. One sad point about the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries is that each nationalised industry comes up for scrutiny only every five or seven years. What is wanted is more regular reporting as part of a continuing control process, so that Parliament is involved in thinking and ideas, as well as the vast legislative proposals involved in huge public programmes. It is for this kind of Government, which will be smaller, less centralised, less secretive, and less bogged down in countless undertakings, that we should be preparing our public administrators of the future. I am sorry if this goes against the feeling that Fulton is right, but I regret that the Committee was precluded by its terms of reference from an examination of the functions and structure of Government, from which the reform of the Civil Service is an inseparable aspect and from which it should never have been separated.
At root, the reform of the Administration is a matter for politicians. The buck cannot be passed by blaming Civil Service Departments, and senior, middle-range or lower civil servants. No bureaucracy, however well trained in new management techniques, can operate efficiently if it is treated like a low-grade pack horse. It cannot operate if it is indiscriminately loaded up with ill-defined responsibilities and half-baked legislation. Until that lesson is learned—and this is a lesson for politicians—I doubt whether Fulton or any other attempts at bureau- 1638 cratic reform will halt the growing chaos in Whitehall or restore health to our democratic institutions.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
I follow the hon. Member in his excellent "think piece", but I do not think that he can fault the Fulton Committee for not acting on his assumptions about the size, spirit and nature of the Administration in the 1970s and 1980s. Those assumptions are highly speculative and not based on any firm evidence or trends in this country. They are out of accord with what is happening in, for example, the United States.
I rise to praise and also to urge reform of the existing Civil Service—not to suggest a radical restructuring, although I agree that we owe a tremendous debt to Fulton and his Committee. I base my experience on five years as a civil servant, recruited into the Foreign Office equivalent of the administrative class by Method II. After a relevant degree, I find myself more in sympathy with Lord Simey's reservation than with the major body of the Fulton recommendations. It is reported that during the negotiations in 1962 over our hoped-for entry into the E.E.C., the present French Prime Minister, M. Couve de Murville, stated to the present Leader of the Opposition that there were only two Civil Services in Europe worth their salt—the French and the British, based on very different systems and working after a very different type of recruitment. Anyone who has studied those negotiations, when the French and British civil servants were face to face, will reach the conclusion that our civil servants were by no means worsted in those negotiations. That is my starting point.
I want to pose three questions. What is the job of the Civil Service? In what ways is it ineffective now? Will the Fulton recommendations make it more effective? As for the job of our Civil Service, we can say that it should represent the will of the community, expressed through Parliament, and do what Parliament tells it or allows it to do. But any answer must surely be woolly and incomplete, because the Civil Service is an expression of Government, and Government activities vary widely. They are not like a business.
1639 Attempts to draw a parallel between business and Government activities are often misleading because of the very different goals of business and government. The jobs which civil servants have to do are multifarious. This is an obvious point. I suspect that throughout the Report the Committee assumed that it was dealing with a monolithic institution and that this has tended to colour its eventual conclusions.
Paragraph 44 of the Report talks of administrative specialisation and suggests two categories of economically biased administrators and socially biased administrators. Surely this division is crude, and its implications for individual Departments are particularly unsatisfactory. People who are doing particular jobs need individual training and are in some cases not getting it now. Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that by the Fulton recommendations we shall produce specialists who, in the words of paragraph 32move with ease among its concepts.We shall simply replace the present division in Departments between administrative and executive classes with a division among economically and socially biased generalists.
In this recommendation and that for a Civil Service college, the Committee has assumed that it was dealing with the Civil Service and has produced a grand design of general remedies for particular defects when directly relevant individually-tailored training would be of greater benefit.
Secondly, in what way is the Civil Service ineffective now? Certain failures like Crichel Down and Ferranti have headlined defects within the Service. These are only partly a guide, of course, but the Committee deserves a tribute for examining the methods of management for the first time. There has never before been a scientifically-based examination of the Civil Service. Yet I urge that the Government should not be too bemused by the results, since we need to know a lot more than is provided by this preliminary survey. I hope that this will not be the end but the start of a process. When the annual report is given to Parliament on progress in implementing the recommendations of the 1640 Fulton Report, I hope that will also have some element in this field.
It is difficult to dissent from many of the conclusions of the Report. Too few civil servants are skilled managers. The supporting volumes show that many civil servants would agree with this. There is not enough contact between the Civil Service and the community. There is certainly evidence of isolation, and I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend's commitment to regionalism. I hope that with the proposed reform of the local government structure, our civil servants, like their French counterparts, with their préfets, will be able to spend their time in the major local authorities.
Personnel management and career planning is inadequate. This would certainly be agreed, and there is a harmful brain drain from the Civil Service, which is described graphically in Volume 5(2), in the excellent contribution of Peter Jay. It is reasonable to open up the top jobs to specialists—ironically, at the expense of their own speciality. But this already happens to a certain extent. For example, I understand that the Director of Roads in the Ministry of Transport is himself an engineer.
I am not so sure about the conclusion that the present system of classes—an awful word, a rallying-cry for the radicals to abolish class, and I do not know how relevant it is to the Civil Service discussion—seriously impedes work within the Civil Service. The Report speaks of over 1,400 classes. This is, no doubt, factually correct and is a reminder of the diversity of the Civil Service, which the Report inadequately represents. Yet, in mainstream Departments, there will surely only be the basic division between the administrative, the executive class and the clerical class, with one or two supporting specialist groups like the lawyers and surveyors.
There is a good case for abolishing the distinction between the administrative and executive classes, although differences of function will remain and there will be posible difficulties in recruitment, but I do not think that the same sort of case can be made out for abolishing the distinction between, say, the legal branch and the administrative classes. Any such attempt to abolish this distinction must be largely empty form. Lawyers do legal work and there is no point in destroying 1641 or trying to destroy this realistic distinction, although, of course, lawyers should have access to the top administrative jobs.
My experience in the Civil Service has convinced me that a little learning can be a dangerous thing. Had I had a law degree, for example, I might have been tempted, on the basis of my own inadequate knowledge, to take legal decisions which I would have been far better advised to push immediately over to the specialist lawyers—as, in fact, I did.
The famous indictment of the generalist, or all-rounder, has some substance. Sophisticated jobs require sophisticated techniques, and relevant provisions should be made where they are not made now. Yet I would still argue that training should be more specific than the Report suggests. The Committee seems to want to have an umbrella to cover everyone within a certain area more or less inadequately. I want the people who need them to be given raincoats, or at least to have them available.
Moreover, the Committee does less than justice to the very real value which our existing generalists have and their competence in detailed subjects. The bulk of our administrators today who analyse their jobs—I have done this with several civil servants, going over an average day—would find that they do not need many of the specialist techniques which the Committee mentions. We must beware of allowing concentration on the value of techniques to hide what those techniques are meant to be used for. What is required is a quality of intelligence judgment, and on that score the amateurs and generalists—1 agree with hon. Members who have said that the Report has not helped its case by its first chapter—have done well. There have been "boobs", of course, and many of the Fulton recommendations will improve the Civil Service, but what is surprising is how effectively the present system has operated, which I think the Report inadequately represents.
Under this heading of effectiveness, I hope that the Government will make a firm commitment to improving working conditions, so that the conditions of our Civil Service are also relevant to the 1970s and 1980s. The Government in this respect should be a model employer. It does not need more than a quick comparison between, say, the normal canteen 1642 facilities on this side of the Thames and those available in the Shell Centre to see just how far the Government fail in this task. Several civil servants have told me that more personal assistants would help far more than no end of civil service colleges, with, of course, the transfer-ability of pension rights.
Lastly, will the Fulton suggestions make our Civil Service more effective? The abolition of the executive-administrative distinction will, I think, help a process which has been going on for some time, particularly in those Departments which already have a high executive content. The Civil Service Department is a reasonable idea, although not very important, but it leads to the danger of over-stressing invalid parallels between different jobs in different Departments.
The proposal for a Civil Service College is flawed by three considerations. The courses which it provides will be in the area of those not directly relevant to individual jobs. Second, so far as the college duplicated courses already provided at universities or polytechnics, it would unnecessarily separate the Civil Service from the community. I am glad, at least, that the Prime Minister said that a portion of the places at that college would be open to non-civil servants.
Of course, such a college would introduce a new elite of old boys of the college, like the E.N.A. in France, and possibly, therefore, increase the tensions within the Civil Service. An expanded Treasury Centre could therefore, possibly, be of greater value than a new site at Sunningdale or Greenwich. In fact, the Committee has suggested so much training, within the department, at the Civil Service college, at university and through interchanges, that one might wonder cynically how many people will actually be doing jobs in the Civil Service. Perhaps it will be the outside businessmen who are to be brought in. But it would be interesting to know what sort of float of civil servants above normal establishment the Committee was working on.
More damaging, though, is the majority conclusion, which I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has rejected, about the preference for "relevant" degrees for recruitment. We need the best Civil Service that we can get. Why should one 1643 weigh the scales against a first-class classicist in favour of a not so good sociologist? In any case, as a former university teacher for a year, I am very doubtful about the relevance of the initial undergraduate degree to the tasks which one faces within the Civil Service.
The Macaulay report, which is reproduced in Appendix B, makes the same point in a rather different context:Of the special knowledge which a civil servant of the Company ought to possess, much can be acquired only in India, and much may be acquired far more easily in India than in England. It would evidently be a mere waste of time to employ a month here in learning what may be better learned in a week at Calcutta or Madras."C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron", as they say about the British system. The battles of the Treasury will not necessarily be won in the lecture rooms of L.S.E., and I am delighted that the Government have rejected that recommendation. Already, the job appeal of the Civil Service is not such that we can afford to discourage able recruits.
In passing, I am sure that, had Macaulay had a chance to comment on the size of the Report compared with his own brief report, he might have said, to adapt something from his review of Dr. Nare's biography of Burghley:Such a report might before the Deluge have been considered as light reading.… But unhappily the life of man is now threescore years and ten, and we cannot but think it somewhat unfair of Lord Fulton to demand from us so large a portion of so short an existence.Nevertheless, I agree that there is a danger today in desk officers becoming overwhelmed by the pressure of day-today work, and there is a considerable case for planning units. There is a danger that the Civil Service will become out of date, like the dinosaur, with a small thinking head and an enormous body. However, although I agree with the idea of planning units, I hope that they will not become "think-tanks", populated by long-haired boffins pondering imponderables and cut off from the feed-back of actual work in Departments. After all, administration is not a form of mental exercise or a form of State-provided out-relief for academics. Administration is about doing things and about getting things done, building roads, building hospitals, and the like.
1644 In looking at the structural reforms, the Committee should, I think, have examined how Ministerial control can be made more effective today. This is the larger topic excluded from the Committee's terms of reference which has been referred to by several hon. Members already. A basic democratic problem today is to determine what structure will overcome what Munby in his contribution, to be found in Volume 5(2), called the "pressure to agree", to ensure that the options are open to a Minister. Here, I agree with the idea of trying to create institutionalised disagreements within Departments so that the whole range of options is available to a Minister. I agree also with having institutionalised conflicts between Departments, which is what I believe my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was trying to do in creating the D.E.A.
We need, and largely have, a humane, just and responsible Civil Service. We should acknowledge more fully than the Committee does the efficiency and dedication of the existing Civil Service. After all, those who want to sell Hoovers are likely to exaggerate the dust around. But there is dust. I believe that the Civil Service can be made more efficient by a sensible application of the majority of the Fulton recommendations.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. A number of hon. Members have taken part in the debate so far, but a number of hon. Members are still waiting. Short speeches would give an opportunity before 9 o'clock to most of those still wishing to take part.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Silvester (Walthamstow, West)
The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson), like many who have spoken so far, isolated two main items which are relevant for discussion: first, the structure of the Civil Service; secondly, accountability to this House. I add a third, namely, the general level of training and standards applying in the Civil Service and throughout industry.
One of the criticisms of Chapter I is that it is rather unfair to the Civil Service, and I think one of the reasons for what is said is that the Committee sought to apply to the Civil Service standards which are only just becoming common in industry itself. It is unreasonable to expect the Civil Service to have developed 1645 further in this respect than many of the elements of industry which are now held up as prime examples of how we should conduct ourselves. It is not to be expected that the Civil Service will lead very much in this respect, but what is interesting, as a result of the Fulton Report, is that, if its recommendations are put into operation, it will put the Civil Service ahead with some of the larger companies and best parts of industry outside.
Having said that, I turn, as others have, to the two points, the structure of the Civil Service as discussed in the Fulton Report, and the effect which its recommendations would have on accountability to this House.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) said that he saw a clear distinction between the procedures in industry and the procedures in the Civil Service and that it would not be possible to translate one into the other automatically. I agree that one could not do it automatically, but I think that I take a slightly different view on the extent to which it is possible to translate lessons from the best of industry into the Civil Service. Obviously, the subject matter differs, but the people are motivated in the same way.
There are passages in the Report which are relevant to the way in which the Civil Service can be expected to react. As the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) emphasised, however much attention we devote to the Report, in the end what matters is the satisfaction of the individual civil servant in his job. Some of the points which emerge from the Report are already answered by recommendations which have already been accepted by the Prime Minister. One of these relates to the proper use of people in the Civil Service.
One feature which impressed me most on reading the Report was the extent to which qualifications are required for entry into the Civil Service but are ill used in later times. This is not simply a question of the clerical officer referred to by the management study who spent 3½ years doing routine filing despite all his A and O levels. It seems from the Report to stretch right through the Civil Service in all grades. Neither is it simply a matter of the jobs which people are given, although it is a major criticism that some people are given jobs which lack the in- 1646 tellectual content which they could reasonably expect. There is also the question of the ancillary services, or lack of them, available which divert a civil servant's attention to matters which ought not to claim his time.
Some of the civil servants to whom I have spoken—this has been mentioned in the House on several occasions—find it particularly irritating that typing and other normal services and procedures which are taken for granted in commercial firms are such a burden in the Civil Service. There are, therefore, these aspects of the matter—the misuse of people, the lack of intellectual content, and the lack of ancillary services.
The hon. Member for Monmouth made a great point about the proportion of the Report devoted to training and drew a number of conclusions about the attendant dangers. One conclusion I draw is that although there is a great deal of thought in industry now about training, it is possible—many hon. Members will have experience of this—for people to have been adequately trained and brought in from, say, the M.I.T. or some other place and then not to be able to use that training within the system. It is found that the additional training which is described in the Report as so desirable has been improperly used. We are, therefore, in danger of making that problem worse.
The second motivating factor for the civil servant himself is the possibility of promotion. The main recommendation here, which has been accepted by the Prime Minister, is that touching the abolition of the classes. This is an enormous step forward that will doubtless take some time to bring into operation and will have a major effect on the problem of promotion. But there are others.
The question is how a person decides he is worth promotion. Recommendation 55 says:Seniority should count for promotion when it reflects experience of value for higher posts;…In the assessment of staff more weight should be given to performance on the job measured against set objectives.The central question is what set objectives one is measured against. One of the elements of success, which the Report emphasises strongly in Chapter 5, is that there should be an area for which a man is responsible. That must imply that he 1647 should have powers of innovation and experimentation. In any other sort of job there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained by knowing that some of the influences that will bear on one's promotion prospects are those which come from the creative ability one applies to one's job. If a civil servant is to be made a manager, but within very confined limits, that will not be satisfactory for him.
Another recommendation concerns the extent to which salaries are to be less tightly controlled. I understand that the proposal is that people within the same section should be able to draw substantially different levels of salary. A way must be found whereby people who are doing better at a range of jobs have a financial reward.
The Report spends some time on the question of introducing outsiders. I am not convinced of the desirability of introducing a large number of outsiders into the Civil Service. One wishes to introduce into the Civil Service the best management techniques from industry, but it is a fallacy to think that this can be done by introducing people, however accomplished, who have exercised those techniques in industry, because one is introducing an alien body. One should seek to promote the same kind of thinking among those already there.
Memorandum No. 24, submitted by the Treasury, speaks of the effect of secondment outside the Service and people coming into the Service. It is worth quoting the comment on pages 390 and 391 of Volume 4 on those who came from outside under the 1965 scheme:Given the sources from which individuals came, and the pattern of shortages at the time, it did not in many cases prove possible to put people into posts where their previous experience was directly relevant though it was normally of value in a general way.That is pretty limited praise. It continues:The general picture that emerged is that it is the quality of the man rather than any exact correspondence between his outside experience and his Civil Service work that determines the speed with which he adjusts…In other words, if a fellow is a good fellow in outside industry and is introduced into the Civil Service, he will do as well there, irrespective of his industrial 1648 experience, as he would have expected to do if he had started there in the first place.
One area into which outside people may be introduced with advantage is personnel management. But such introductions should be strictly limited, and most improvements should come from the training and encouragement of those already in the Service.
I do not think mention has been made of one aspect of the influences which come to bear on the Civil Service. If we are faced with a situation in which we put more management responsibility on civil servants, and if we ask the Civil Service to take on many different tasks, it follows that there is a likelihood that over the years some people will not continue to be as valuable to the Service as they might have been. To be blunt, I am saying that there must be a greater opportunity to remove people from the Civil Service. The Report shows that the number who left through misconduct, inefficiency and redundancy declined between 1963 and 1966. I am not in a position to judge whether that is good, but it seems unlikely that that should be a normal situation at a time when the Civil Service was increasing in numbers.
The Treasury says that the procedure under Section 9 of the Superannuation Act, 1965 whereby a pension may be granted to people under 50 who are forcibly retired from the Civil Service is very rarely used, because it needs a special Treasury Minute before Parliament. Another impediment is the wretched question of the transferability of pensions.
The Government should take account of these matters in making it possible for people to leave the Service, either with a little push or of their own volition, not necessarily when they are behaving badly or particularly inefficiently but when it seems that they are unlikely to make much further progress in the Service.
I shall say no more about the internal affairs of the Civil Service, except that I do not take such a gloomy view of the Report as my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell) does. Some of his criticisms are met by Chapter 5. The question is largely the extent to which it is possible to implement it. 1649 The task is fantastically large, and it depends on how much the House is prepared to make adjustments. The basic question for the House to decide, if it agrees with the Report and with Chapter 5 in particular, is the extent to which it is prepared to delegate responsibility in a way which means that the functions delegated will no longer be accountable in the House. It is a straightforward matter for the House to decide. No amount of further discussion of the Report, no amount of efforts by the Government or the Civil Service to implement its recommendations, will have any effect unless that fundamental change is made.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
I shall confine my remarks to one aspect of the Fulton Report which, so far as I am aware has not been mentioned in the debate. Many hon. Members have spoken about the need for an open society, for what is called "participation"—the "in" word at present—by members of the public in Government decisions. The Report says on page 92:…we suggest that the Government should set up an inquiry to make recommendations for getting rid of unnecessary secrecy in this country.We would all agree with that. It adds:Clearly, the Official Secrets Acts would need to be included in such a review.If we are serious, as I think hon. Members are, about wanting to operate as open a society as possible and about the necessity for a proper outflow of information from Government Departments to the public, a practical way of achieving this would be immediately to investigate the workings of the Official Secrets Acts.
The Official Secrets Act dates back to 1911. It was conceived in an atmosphere of a then current spy scare. It was added to in 1921 in the aftermath of a spy scare. It was further added to in 1939 when there was a general war atmosphere. I concede that an Official Secrets Act is necessary and that it is proper that it should operate to protect defence secrets, in cases where the security of the State is genuinely at risk.
But the situation is that the Act has been so interpreted that it operates not only on official secret information but 1650 on official information of any kind. As I said we are talking about the need for proper participation—a word I hate and which I hope will die out along with "escalation", "meaningful", and "purposive", and other grotesque words. This is an appropriate time, therefore, to examine how far the Official Secrets Act inhibits civil servants from giving information to the public which is in no way secret and which the public have a right to hear about and the Press have the right and indeed, duty to report.
Almost every civil servant takes an oath under the Official Secrets Act and that oath continues in force not only while he is in the service but forever after until the head of his Department gives him the O.K. to reveal some particular piece of information. Human beings are all alike, whether they be in Government or in Opposition, in the Civil Service or in private industry. They talk about freedom and about the freedom of the Press and the glories of a free Press. Yet they are always very reluctant to reveal information which might be embarrassing or which might hide some sort of administrative muddle or which might not resound great credit on themselves.
This factor, coupled with the Official Secrets Act, on which they can lean, makes it almost impossible for civil servants to expose an administrative muddle which should be exposed and which might react against the Government of the day because the Government have to take responsibility. Civil servants are prevented from doing this by the belief that they might be prosecuted under the Act.
I do not suggest that the Act is used capriciously or that there have been many prosecutions under it. There have not. Indeed, one of the perversities is that the only time the Act is ever debated in this House is when there has been some prosecution which hon. Members feel to be unjust and raised it on the Floor of the House. No Government since 1911 have chosen voluntarily to examine the Act and do anything to limit it.
My right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General is supposed to be responsible for "participation". I hope that she will take the recommendation of the Fulton 1651 Committee seriously and set up an inquiry to examine the relevance today of this Act, conceived over 50 years ago.
Perhaps the need in 1911 to disseminate information was not as great as it is now. We live in an age when television brings Ministers before millions of viewers to be "cross-examined"—and indeed I would like to see civil servants brought before the public as well. There is a genuine need to see whether the Act is properly aligned to the needs of the day.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
I have only one theme and request. I ask that the powers that be—the usual channels—should reconsider the terms of reference of the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner and extend them to allow consideration of the working of the new Civil Service Department which has been set up as a result of the recommendations of the Fulton Committee. This request is based on the experience of the Select Committee during its first year of working in establishing the relationship between the Civil Service and Parliament through what paragraph 281 of the Report calls "the new specialised Committees".
The crux of the Committee's year of work in relation to our attitude to the Civil Service and its attitude to us was the Report of the Parliamentary Commissioner on Sachsenhausen. When we came to investigate that, we found that the whole subject had got off to a wrong start because it had been investigated by the House in a way typical of the pattern evolved by this House over many years in control of the Executive. It showed all the flaws that now exist in the way we exert Parliamentary control over the Executive.
First, it established a confrontation. The Foreign Office was on trial and the opposition—I do not necessarily mean the official Opposition—to the Foreign Office was there to criticise. It meant that a Government Minister was coming to defend the Foreign Office and that he would take a firm line in defending the reputation of his civil servants, because he believed that he would be unjustified in investigating criticism on a much broader and in a much more flexible way. He felt that because the criticism 1652 was in public on the Floor of the House he had to defend the officials who had made the decisions in this case.
As a result, the case came to the Select Committee already prejudged, with the matter in a rigid and inflexible mould and the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office giving evidence to us already committed to his Minister's view of the situation and having to defend that view. We wanted to pierce deeper, and we asked for the official who had made the decision complained of in the Sachsenhausen case and tried to find out why he made that decision, what was the reason why an error of administration had arisen. We thought that he would be able to give the full background and that we would be able to come to a more rational and more humane judgment about the nature of the error.
It still seems to me that error was made because a man was making a decision against the background of several thousand decisions which he was having to make in this whole area over a limited period of time and with limited information. Had we been able to see the full picture as he saw it at the time, our understanding of his situation would have been more compassionate than it could be from the cursory way in which we were able to examine the situation after a rigid and inflexible attitude had been developed because the matter had arisen in debate in the House.
It seems to me from all that it would have been far better if there had never been a debate in the House and if control of the Executive had not been administered in the usual old-fashioned way which has been developed here and that the idea of confrontation is totally wrong for the real control of the Executive. What we ought to develop is a working relationship with civil servants so that we understand their difficulties and they understand what it is we want from them. The only way in which to do that is with a long continuing relationship with the people actually making the decisions in the Department at the time.
That is why I hope that the terms of reference of this Committee will be widened so that we can take an interest in all the problems of this new Department as the representative of the Civil 1653 Service as a whole and that we can establish a working relationship which is concerned with problems as well as with errors. At the moment the Committee is compulsorily concerned only with errors and, naturally, whenever a civil servant comes before our Committee he is on the defensive wanting to justify what has been done instead of simply opening up the whole of his work so that we can take this compassionate interest.
It is this kind of working relationship which is at the crux of this new attitude to the Civil Service which the House has developed. I very much agree with what the Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon. We need to develop a new attitude within new institutions. It is no good putting new institutions on top of the old. The House is not capable of fulfilling that role. We are already feeling the strain of the reforms which were initiated by the former Leader of the House, because they have been added to an outmoded system of Parliamentary control.
I should like to see a system of Select Committees appointed on the basis of terms of reference for a particular Department, or section of a Department, working closely with the civil servants at all levels in the Department and discussing policy before decisions are made. When decisions have been made and implemented in legislation, there would be a Committee to consider it when the legislation came off the Floor of the House and, instead of going to a Standing Committee appointed from among Members who had no particular interest in the matter, except that they had spoken on Second Reading, the legislation would go back to the Committee which had taken part in the formation of the policy.
It follows from that there would have to be smaller numbers on Committees. They could not be so many Committees with the present level of manning, but I do not think that there need be. The Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner would be just as efficient if there were four or five Members as with 12. The Select Committee on Agriculture would have been just as efficient with the original 16 Members as with the later 25. There is no reason why Committee should be as big as they are, but the important thing is to develop 1654 a working relationship with the civil servants.
I therefore believe that we have to have a completely new strategy for the nature of Parliament and the way in which it works with the Administration, and this in turn will mean a new view of the rôle of Members of Parliament and the facilities afforded to them to effect that role. It means things which I cannot mention in this debate without getting out of order, but it means a completely new pay structure for Members of Parliament and completely new facilities for them to do their jobs. Only in that way can we get the detailed control of administration and of the Executive which will be much more important in the coming 20 or 30 years.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell) made a very interesting speech. There was so much of it with which I agreed. He came at the end to what he now regards as the division between the parties, namely, that in the 1970s we shall be moving into a pattern of society where people will want to take more decisions for themselves and, therefore, the Government will not be taking as many decisions and there will not be the necessity for the kind of management techniques about which the Fulton Committee was talking. He is partly right in his assessment. As one gets towards a more affluent society there is less need for the State to provide welfare facilities, which are really provided for the less well-off.
There is a whole area of Government activity which will diminish in the 1970s. It also follows from that that we must preserve that affluence and therefore one has to have much more refined techniques, much more detailed management of the economy, so that the individual can maintain his higher standard of living. It also means that one has to be able to fix quickly upon the people who get into distress, the people who are left out in the general welfare extended by greater affluence. Therefore, one has to have more detailed methods of finding people and helping them. All of that calls for much more detailed management, much more complicated management than we have had in the past. This seems to underlie the need for the kind 1655 of Civil Service that the Fulton Committee is recommending.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. R. F. H. Dobson (Bristol, North-East)
I rise to give a general welcome to the Report. I took exception to the words in the first paragraph which referred to "amateurs". I suppose that I could do it in a particular way, because I am speaking now presumably as a professional politician of two and a half years' standing, whereas I am referred to in the Report, after 20 years, as an amateur. This resentment was generally felt. It should not necessarily detract from the value of the Report which is very great indeed.
I want to examine the Report against the background of general public criticism of the Civil Service. If the Report is not meeting that criticism, then it has failed to do its job and make changes which we could and should be discussing. The first public critcism is that the Civil Service makes very slow decisions, it takes a long time. This is generally true. There is enormous room for making speedier decisions, but there are a lot of reasons for slow decisions, such as lack of staff, poor conditions, working under strain. Most of the people whom we see in public representing the Civil Service are low-graded personnel, who do not always give the best impression to the public.
We occasionally get, and it is absolutely inexplicable—it happens in big business, too—an avoidance of decision-taking. It is far too easy to pass to another department, group or section the sort of decision which one ought to be making oneself. An important area to the public is the way in which decisions are reached, and whether or not they are the right decisions. Very often the public is arguing that they are the wrong decisions. What they are not told, and what one sometimes wonders, is whether the choices from which the decision has been made are the right ones, and whether the right choice has been selected from those.
A lot of this stems, as the Report tends to show, from the class system of recruitment and the class system inside the Civil Service. This has been known to be poor for a long time. There are 1656 instances in all sorts of grades, from the lowest clerical assistant, almost to the top, which show such a wide variety, not only of decisions, but of the way in which they are made, that one cannot fail to have regard to the fact that there must be a change in our system. The next criticism is that senior staff of the Civil Service are aged, non-projectionist, if that is the right word, indecisive, and this is generally without doubt on sheer statistical information alone. One was struck by the Report suggesting, after it had looked at the Swedish, French and American systems, that there should be more youthfulness in the senior staff, particularly around the Minister. That could be achieved in many ways. This is a general criticism of which the public is aware.
Another general public criticism relates to the lack of specialist knowledge within the Civil Service. This matter must be kept in perspective. There is a great fund of specialist knowledge available in the Service. Some tables reproduced in the Report show that about one-quarter of the Civil Service is in the professional and technical classes—people who do not normally come into the public eye.
The most damning criticism is the feeling that if a civil servant makes a decision he creates a precedent and he is therefore reluctant to make a change which will cause a series of other changes. This is the canker in the soul of the Civil Service. I believe this arises because the civil servant is not sufficiently well-trained and does not have sufficient authority to take the type of decision which this involves.
Then there is criticism of duplication between local government and the Civil Service. On the housing side or on the road side, local authorities use staff of equivalent rank, and sometimes of higher rank, than civil servants, but a matter still has to come to Whitehall for discussion, approval and general chopping about. I do not suggest that local authorities should have the final say, but this duplication must be scrutinised. There should not be this bagatelle of argument, with words, arguments, decisions and counter-decisions, and a gradual wearing down of the local people so that the national view predominates.
I am disappointed with the Report's comments on structure. Nothing decisive 1657 is said—let us hope that the grading structure will change this—about the proliferation of departmental and interdepartmental committees which sap so much effort. From my experience, I agree with the cogent remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition on this.
Job evaluation, even at the top, is poor, as Volume 2 of the Report shows. This matter needs attention.
I do not want to talk about the Swedish open-plan system. It is a valuable one which we should study, but I am not sure that a committee of inquiry as we understand a committee of inquiry would be the right machinery to do that.
On staff, it is suggested that the proposed change to a banded system will make it easier to reach pay settlements. I doubt this. I think that it will cause more problems and not fewer. It might not even be the right way to adopt to promote people and advance them quickly from one area to another. I do not think we are yet ready for the American unified structure.
The biggest problem on pay is the incremental scale system. If there is job evaluation, that will be an excellent chance to get rid of the incremental scale system, which is an impediment to most people. It is a system which does not stand up to serious examination. The transfer of pensions to enable people to go in and out of the service would be the most creditable thing which the Government have done. It would enable us to have fresh light inside and some knowledge of Government service going into industry.
All these things are important and they are in the Report. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider them when she deals with the Report.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Tarn Dalyell (West Lothian)
It was generous of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Dobson) to telescope his speech, as I shall do mine.
How Sir Philip Allen and Sir James Dunnett came to put pen to paper and sign Chapter 1 of the Report, I cannot imagine! How Sir William Cook, in his job, and as he has appeared before the Select Committee on Science and Tech- 1658 nology, signed paragraph 17 I find difficult to understand.
I welcome the Prime Minister's decision that before any Bill is published there will be an estimate of its likely manpower effects. I should like to see a similar discipline applied to any changes in the form of taxation on which we have. As the Fulton Committee correctly remarked.complexity costs time and money, and Simplicity, and thus economy, should be a constant goal".I should like to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) and to the suggestion in the Report that an inquiry should be made into ways and means of getting rid of unnecessary secrecy both in policy making and administration. It was on this point that I interrupted my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister towards the end of his speech. He rather tossed the problem back to me and said, "If you have any ideas, let us know". I urge my right hon. Friend to set up this inquiry to which I shall submit written evidence.
My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington put the points about the Official Secrets Act much better than I would have done. I should like to see the Government's initiative of the Green Paper extended. Perhaps we could have some sort of device like a White Paper with green edges which was more flexible than something produced in the form of a White Paper which we have had up to now. It should be admitted that the cost of reviewing and updating the degree of restriction and classification is quite a major one. As the Fulton Report says, can we have open decisions which are openly arrived at?
I should like to follow the Leader of the Opposition on the question of the high flyers list and the possibility that high flyers would be overlooked in a larger service. I for one am profoundly concerned about the concept of the career of a civil servant being over-determined by what he has achieved perhaps at university between the ages of 18 and 21. Surely over this span of our working lives our abilities tend to change and fluctuate, as does perhaps our I.Q. Therefore, any decision that a man's career should be absolutely determined by what he has done early in life seems 1659 to me pretty doubtful. Without mentioning names too much, when I served on the Public Accounts Committee for three years there was no more impressive witness than Sir Richard Way, and his background surely could be taken into account in this context.
That brings me to the Public Accounts Committee. Following the speech of the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell), this House must, in the light of what has been said, re-examine the Committee's terms of reference. Having served for three years on the Committee, I am, in retrospect, not very proud of all the finicky questions which I and my colleagues were responsible for asking. This should be looked at as a matter of urgency. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East about the crucial nature of the question of transferable pensions. I ask for an assurance that at all stages during which these problems are worked out there will be full consultation with the staff associations of the Civil Service.
It is now 9 o'clock. I gave an undertaking that I would sit down on the stroke of nine, so I now do so.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I would like to begin as a member of the Fulton Committee by saying what a privilege I found it to serve on the Committee. I am not sure that I should have been chosen but for the fact that previously I had been on the Sub-Committee of the Estimates Committee which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology had chaired a year or two before. This has been one of the most interesting tasks in which I have ever been engaged. I join the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) in thanking the witnesses who appeared before us. We had large numbers of witnesses. Many people who spent a considerable time before us gave us either oral or written evidence. Much of the evidence in the later volumes of the Report will surely prove of lasting value.
I would like to start with two preliminary remarks in answer to the debate. First, whatever the merits of our answers and our solutions in the Fulton Report, I feel fairly certain that in one respect our 1660 approach was a rational one. We began not with any ideal model of what the Civil Service should be. We began with the tasks that have to be performed and the men and women who are needed for them.
We say that specifically in paragraph 24 of the Report, from which I quote:The Civil Service must continuously review the tasks it is called upon to perform and the possible ways in which it might perform them; it should then think out what new skills and kinds of men are needed, and how these men can be found, trained and deployed. The Service must avoid a static view of a new ideal man and structure which in its turn could become as much of an obstacle to change as the present inheritance.I believe that that was the right starting point for our inquiry.
My second preliminary point is that I agree very much with those who say—like, for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell)—that our view of the whole question of Civil Service reform is closely bound up with one's view of the functions of government. I should like to say a few words on that, and take some of the points made earlier in the debate by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne.
We accept far more of the central Government nowadays for a number of reasons. First, everybody accepts that it is a prime responsibility of the Government to remedy avoidable social evils. In this respect I believe that politics in this country have never been the same since the Coalition White Paper on Employment Policy of 1944. Secondly, since the mid-1950s, it has come to be widely accepted that the Government have the responsibility to foster economic growth, whatever our differences as to the balance of measures whereby Governments can best do that.
Thirdly, and in addition, nearly everyone recognises today that it is right, in the words of my own mentor in economic matters, Sir Hubert Henderson,to seek to regulate by more deliberate policy a number of matters that were formerly left to the laws of supply and demand.In other words, we recognise the need for more collective decisions about things like town planning, the supply of teachers or the provision of university places.
A fourth reason, which has not been mentioned today, why we expect more 1661 of the Government is that we have come to take a more optimistic view of human potentiality. Thus we support educational advance not only because of the need of a modern industrial society for an increased supply of talent, but also because we have learned over the years that the pool of potential ability is considerably deeper than we previously supposed.
But while, for all these reasons, we have come to take for granted an extension of influence and activity on the part of the State, I agree with those hon. Members, on both sides, who have said that this does not mean that there has been a simple extension of the powers and functions of the State. I believe that the manner of the State's involvement in collective decision-taking has grown extremely complicated and extremely diverse, and the community outside the Government has itself become more and more involved. I believe that negotiation and a sense of mutual involvement between the Government and the outside world will play a continuing important part in the work of some of the most important Government Departments, Furthermore, I believe that this will go on being true even under a Government which is rightly committed in certain respects to reducing the role of the State.
I agree with what the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) said on this subject; even if, in certain respects, we see less direct intervention by the State, and certain matters left more to private initiative, none the less there will still be a condition of mutual involvement between the State and communities outside the central Government for objectives that are generally accepted.
In this context I would also very much like to echo what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said at the end of his speech. We need today a more powerful and sophisticated Government machine than in the nineteenth century or in the pre-war years, but we also need at the same time more effective Parliamentary controls; we need machinery for the redress of grievances, and we need adequate checks on authority. Alongside the growth in the influence of the Government must go adequate checks on authority and adequate defences for personal liberty.
1662 I think it is highly relevant to add this: do not let us, even with the best Civil Service in the world, make the fatal error of supposing that the central Government will ever have a monopoly of good ideas. I know well from my own interest in the education service that so many good ideas have come up from local authorities and, again, as we know, many forward-looking ideas come from private industry. It is absolutely essential that a civil servant should be an expert adviser on those matters which central Government alone can perform, should also develop right techniques of mutual involvement with the outside world, and should at the same be responsive to good ideas from outside. I would say, with respect, that Whitehall can be particularly good at pulling together a range of information and spreading the best existing practice, but there is always danger if Governments believe they have a monopoly of really good ideas on any subject.
Having made those two points, I thought that for the rest of my speech I would try to answer two or three of the criticisms which have been made of this Report; then I will say something about the recommendations which have been accepted by the Government; and lastly, if there is time, say a few words about one or two matters which have not attracted much attention in the debate.
I would say first just a word on the vexed question on the civil servant as generalist. I quite recognise, on reflection, that the drafting of Chapter 1 might have been difficult. I think that many of us on the Committee will have noticed the criticisms which have been made, and I think, looking back, that it would clearly have been better if the tribute to the Civil Service in paragraph 22 of Chapter 1 had been placed before the rather sharp criticisms made in paragraph 14.
Having said that, I think it is at the same time important to realise just what were the bases of those criticism, and that at least some relevant points were made here. The crux of the matter comes in paragraph 15 where we say:The ideal administrator is still too often seen as the gifted layman who, moving frequently from job to job within the Service, can take a practical view of any problem, irrespective of its subject-matter, in the light 1663 of his knowledge and experience of the government machine.To those who are critical of that sentence I would say first of all that it has been endorsed by at least one—I should have thought—important authority, Lady Sharp, who, in another place, said:Nevertheless, I sec what the Committee meant, and although I wish they had chosen their language more precisely, I think there was a great deal in it. I believe it is true that in the Service we have overdone what they call the 'cult of the generalist', and the higher one goes in the Service the truer this has been."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 24th July, 1968; Vol. 295, c. 1086.]Later in the same paragraph Lady Sharp was a little more pointed and personal, so I shall omit what she said on this occasion. In effect, she endorsed the substance of what we said in our paragraph 15.
Furthermore, on excessive mobility, what we say about moving frequently from job to job within the Service is borne out by some evidence in Volume 2 in the mangement consultancy report. The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne referred earlier to this. The management consultancy team said in paragraph 65 that the administrators whom they interviewed had been in their present jobs for an average of only 2.7 years. They had averaged a period of 3.2 years in their last jobs and 2.8 years in all their completed jobs in the class. In paragraph 67 the management consultancy team make some pretty pointed critcisms of this. They say:Many Administrators have so short a tenure in any job that even the most able of them rarely have time thoroughly to grasp the complex subjects with which they are dealing.Without a deep understanding of these subjects, either by experience or training, few of them are in a position to evaluate in any fundamental way the extent to which the policies they are administering are successful. This must inhibit the drive for innovation.This paragraph should not be overlooked by the House or by outside opinion. I have noted the remarks of Lord Simey in his note of reservation on Chapter 1, where he says, in paragraph 5:It is true that modern economic and political organisation needs high specialism, but it also needs more general qualities of judgment and decisiveness, and the ability to understand how the reshaping of values may be embodied in and implemented by public policy.1664 I hope that I shall be the last person to under-value judgment and decisiveness, but, nonetheless, one must not set too high a value on those qualities alone and ignore others.
If I may quote one more paragraph from the Report, paragraph 41 states:It must be accepted that for the administrator to be expert in running the Government machine is not in itself enough. He must in future also have to acquire the basic concepts and knowledge, whether social, economic, industrial or financial, relevant to his area of administration and appropriate to his level, of responsibility. He must have a real understanding of, and familiarity with, the principles, techniques and trends of development in the subject-matter of the field in which he is operating.That, I think, is a sound point of view. The way in which I would put it is that those in the administrative class with important jobs to perform must be able to talk to experts without having to demand that everything is put into layman's language. They must have real familiarity with their subject-matter.
On another point on which there has been considerable criticism, the decision about preference for relevance when recruiting graduates and post-graduates, I rather expected that the Government's decision would go against the Committee. I know that this suggestion by the majority has been widely criticised. But before the House finally decides against us on this matter, I would ask hon. Members to look at paragraphs 76 and 77 of the Report, where some points of substance are made.First-degree courses based on the study of modern subjects especially attract many young people with a positive and a practical interest in contemporary problems, political, social, economic, scientfic and technological.We also point out that there is evidence that most undergraduates want jobs in which they can make direct use of their university studies. I recollect an interesting point made some years ago by Dr. Ian Little who said that it is very often the person who takes up a subject in later life who becomes "academic" in his approach to it, in the wrong sense. I believe that there is much truth in this. If I wanted to be controversial I could think of one at least of my right hon. Friends who had taken up the study of economics dangerously late in life. [Laughter.] There is the danger that one 1665 may see one part of economic theory out of perspective in relation to the whole.
I am glad, at any rate, that the Prime Minister has gone a considerable way to conceding our point in paragraph 79, where we say that the Service needs to recruit outstandingly able men and women, whatever the subject of their university degree, that, if they have not got a relevant qualification, it is important that they should take a special training course. Incidentally, I agree with the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson) about the importance of postgraduate training before taking on any one of a number of jobs. If one wishes today to do a first-class job in Government service, there are sound reasons for thinking that one needs a period of postgraduate training, rather than moving straight from the textbook, as it were, to the work of a Government Department.
We have been criticised about the policy planning units which we suggest in Chapter 5, and the suggestion that in most Departments there should be a senior policy adviser. Often I am struck by a point which my right hon. Friend mentioned today, and that is the importance of the correct identification of a problem. There are those who have studied subjects in depth and who are much better than the rest of us at identifying an issue correctly. Sometimes, that will be easier for a senior civil servant who does not have too much of the day-to-day work and involvement with the outside world.
Again we mention the senior policy adviser. We say in paragraph 182 that it would be his job,like his staff, to know the other experts in the field, both inside and outside the Service.… He should be aware of all the important trends in new thinking and practice that are relevant. We hope that adviser would often be a relatively young man.On reflection, I am not sure that I would not depart from the suggestion that he should have an independent line of communication to the Minister, as it were, bypassing the Permanent Secretary. But there is a case in a Department sometimes for someone relatively young who is in close touch with modern thinking on the subject concerned, and who can make a very important contribution by identifyirg current problems correctly.
1666 I agree completely with the point made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when he says that, in the Foreign Office Department of Overseas Affairs, ideas thrown up by the Department's planning unit must run the gauntlet of the views of those in day-today contact with the outside world. That seems to be very desirable.
I have made these comments on the Recommendations which have most widely attracted criticism. I have done it not out of a feeling of defensiveness, but because I think it is right to have the widest possible exchange of ideas, and because even those hon. Members who reject our suggestions will feel, I hope, that there is some sense in the paragraphs to which I have referred.
I come on to the three major Recommendations that have been accepted, and I begin with the important decision concerning the Civil Service Department. It is interesting that until now, as we say in paragraph 252, the British Civil Service has been almost alone in continuing to combine Treasury and Civil Service functions in a single Department. The decision to have a Civil Service Department is an important one for the Civil Service, but it is also important for the Treasury.
I believe that the Treasury should be the major economic Department concerned with the planning of our economy. I have long been doubtful whether the central management of the Service should be in the Treasury. It has been bad on the financial side for the Treasury because the Joint Permanent Secretary inevitably has been in something of an anomalous position. In spite of the great importance of his job on the economic side and his high rank, he has never been complete master in his own house in charge of his own staff appointments.
The staffing of the new Civil Service Department is of the greatest importance, and I hope that the right hon. Lady will be able to say something about it. In paragraph 255 of the Report, we say:The new department should not in our view be predominantly staffed by officers who have spent most of their careers in the Treasury, and can thus have little experience of direct responsibility for management.We further say, in paragraph 256:The Department should also include specialists (e.g. scientists and engineers) who 1667 will be able to bring an intimate knowledge and experience to bear on the recruitment, training and career management of members of their own disciplines.I hope that the Civil Service Department will include a sufficient number of specialists of various kinds. I hope it will not, for too long at any rate, seem to be the old establishment part of the Treasury under another name. I hope that the right hon. Lady will be able to say that everything will be done to give the new Department as modern-minded an appearance as possible.
My hon. Friend the Member for Guild-ford made a very interesting speech. One thing that surprised me was when he suggested that it was wrong that the Civil Service Department should concern itself with top appointments in the Civil Service. I think that is inevitable. I take the point about leaving as much responsibility as possible with the Departments, but the Civil Service Department must have a considerable responsibility for top appointments. My hon. Friend may have noticed that the Head of the Civil Service Department will be assisted by a Committee for this purpose. I do not think that a disproportionate weight of responsibility will rest on him alone, as an individual.
One important consequence of the change is that, to put it frankly, the Treasury will become a little less of an overlord in the Government machine as a whole. Hitherto, the Treasury has not only been concerned with Government expenditure and with a number of economic matters, but it has also had Civil Service responsibilities. It has also been the Department responsible for advising the Prime Minister on the machinery of government. At times this has been very important. I hope it is not indiscreet for me to say that I was personally interested and involved when the question was raised about how higher education should be organised—whether we should have two Ministers or one Minister. But these responsibilities will pass to the new Civil Service Department. Paragraph 267 says:But it should be the task of the Civil Service Department, rather than of the Treasury, to determine the scale of the staffs necessary for the efficient discharge of the tasks of departments; and the Treasury should in all cases have to accept that a given task demands the necessary staff that the new 1668 department, after examination, is satisfied are needed.… If the Treasury took the view that the total expenditure should be reduced, it would be free to challenge the policies of the spending departments, but not the assessment of staff costs approved by the Civil Service Department.That seems an important recommendation and I hope that the right hon. Lady will be able to tell us that it will be carried out.
The second recommendation accepted by the Government concerns the Civil Service College. The College will be concerned with courses for new entrants. It will also have to put forward a programme for the further training of those who entered the Service before recent improvements in the training programmes began. I hope that due note will be taken of paragraph 112:…the Civil Service College should not attempt to provide the total amount of training required by civil servants.It would be wholly wrong if the college attempted to have a monopoly on training.
My right hon. Friend criticised the suggestion that places should be set aside, at any rate to begin with, for men and women from private firms. I am sure that the Government will have noted my right hon. Friend's suggestion. At the same time, nothing that he said is inconsistent with the important point in paragraph 111:…the college has an important part to play in laying the foundations for a greater understanding between civil servants and the outside world.I believe that the college can play an important part, but this will not just happen of itself. I hope that it will extend its training beyond the type of course already given in Regents Park. I think that that has been a success, but it is important that the type of training and range of courses should be wider than that.
The third recommendation which the Government have accepted concerns the important proposal in Chapter 6 for a unified grading structure. I share the view of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne that this is one of the most important recommendations in the Report. It is obviously going to take a long while to implement, but I was very pleased when the Government 1669 accepted its recommendation in principle in the Prime Minister's original statement.
I ask hon. Members—if they have not already done so—to look at paragraph 231, dealing with the advantages of a unified grading structure, in which we say:In particular, the unified grading-system we propose will enable the Service to gain the full contribution which scientists, engineers and other specialist staff could, but do not now, make to policy, management and administration.We also say later thatit would promote more efficient and accountable management and the more economical use of manpower.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether the Commission recommended the unified grading structure on the basis of the information brought back by Sir Philip Allen and the Chairman after only five days in the United States, or on the basis of a closer examination of the limitations and inflexibility of the American system?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that America was not in itself decisive. We took a considerable amount of evidence from industry—from large industrial firms—on the way in which the grading structure is worked in industry, and that influenced us more than the information brought back from the United States.
A further point we made was thata common grading structure…offers, in our view, the only practicable means of dealing with the fragmentation of over 1,400 departmental classes, each with its own separate pay and career structure".As a former Financial Secretary, I can assure the House that that is a very important consideration.
In the last few minutes I want to mention one or two other aspects of the Report which have attracted rather less attention in today's debate. Few hon. Members, except my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Silvester), have referred to the importance of Chapter 4 on mobility and pension arrangements. In paragraph 129 we deal with the question of personal appointments by Ministers—a subject that might have been controversial but 1670 which we dealt with in a way to which I am sure no hon. Members will object. We say:These have been personal appointments in the sense that they have been individuals known to the Ministers concerned, who have judged that their individual qualities and experience could be of special help to them in their departments. We welcome this practice as a means of bringing new men and ideas into the service of the State.We also speak—and this is just as important—about movement out of the Service. In paragraph 133 we say thatthe Service should have wider powers to retire on pension those who have ceased to earn their keep.This is not just a matter of culpable inefficiency; we are referring to those who have run out of steam and are no longer earning their keep. We say some important things about the transferability of pension rights. We say:We recommend therefore that the Service should, wherever practicable, make transfer arrangements with private employers to facilitate late entry, and that all civil servants who have served for an appropriate qualified period should be able to transfer or preserve their pension rights on voluntarily leaving the Service.That, too, is important. I hope that the right hon. Lady will be able to tell us that in her view a more mobile Civil Service in no way causes insuperable difficulties for a mainly career service.
We also speak near the end about Ministers and the staff immediately surrounding them. I hope it will not be controversial that where a personal private secretary is unacceptable to an incoming Minister a change may be made without any suggestion of a stigma on the individual concerned. That is an important principle.
Lastly, I re-echo the point made this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. Civil Service reform is important but, like economic planning, it can never be a substitute for adequate decision-taking by the Government. We can have the best Civil Service in the world but, nonetheless, responsibility for policy must rest squarely with Ministers, and it will be for Ministers, above all, for the future, to see that the decisions that the country need are taken in good time.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Paymaster-General (Mrs. Judith Hart)
This has been an extremely interesting debate. Hon. Members on both sides have recognised what interesting contributions we have had. What I noted particularly—I think it was first pointed out by an hon. Member Opposite—was that apart from the two Front Bench speakers, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) all those who have taken part have been Members who came to this House from 1964 onwards. This shows the degree of interest among those who are more new to the House in the whole field thrown up by the Fulton Report and the changes now to be made in the Civil Service. To some of the many points made I can only reply that these are still being studied, because we are, of course, in the very early stages of setting up the Civil Service Department under the Prime Minister, and, whereas we have reached a number of decisions, others are clearly bound to be under study for some time yet.
The first question is that of numbers in the Civil Service. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made the present position clear—that, since the review of public expenditure earlier this year, determined steps have been taken to prevent any increase in staff numbers during this financial year; that, in October, numbers were slightly less than in April, and that we are expecting to succeed in our aim for the year.
But there is one aspect of this to which I would draw attention, mainly because it is rarely appreciated in the House and much more rarely appreciated by the public. It is very relevant to any consideration of numbers in the Service. This is that, of the non-industrial staff in the Civil Service, about 65 per cent. serve outside London and also outside the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office in Edinburgh and Cardiff. In other words, about 65 per cent. are working in regional and local offices of, for example, the Board of Trade, the Department of Employment and Productivity and the Department of Health and Social Security, or they are in the prison service or in research establishments. They are the people with whom the public tend to have the closest contact. I do not think that, when hon. Members or members of the 1672 public call for reductions in the size of the Civil Service, they are really seeking to ask that there should be fewer prison officers or fewer men and women to call on the old and sick to help them claim their Welfare State benefits.
What has happened is that the fields in which the sharpest increase has tended to take place in Civil Service numbers over the last few years have been these very fields where a degree of personal service to the public is involved. In some of these fields, improving the quality of care and raising the standards of all of us in relation to the public, are necessarily functions of the number of people available to do the work. What we can do—here I agree completely with the Leader of the Opposition—is seek to streamline the routine procedures—he mentioned Government procurement, and there are others, like the computerisation of payments both to the Inland Revenue and for social security—so that more man-hours are available for work demanding essential human contact. A great many efforts are at present being made in this direction.
But of course it is true, in the end, that policies determine numbers. It is, however, worth emphasising that the policies which make the keenest demands on manpower tend on the whole to be those which are the least politically controversial and which are concerned with the consequences of making Welfare State provision, with which both sides agree.
I turn now to the Committee's proposals on the terms of service and the promotion of mobility. It will be recalled that the Report proposes the abolition of establishment and the substitution of new terms of service, and a number of measures which are designed to increase mobility into and out of the Civil Service. Clearly, it will take time to reach conclusions on these changes, especially as they affect the Civil Service superannuation scheme. Two points in particular were raised, one by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) and another by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Sir E. Boyle), touching on pension provision and its relationship to mobility.
It is well known now that the Government's proposals for national superannuation changes and a new social insurance 1673 system will be emerging very soon. They will in any case have to be discussed with the national staff side in order to take account of a number of points which will require some revision of the relationship of the State pension scheme to the pension schemes affecting the Civil Service. Equally, what the White Paper will say on transferability or preservation of pension rights will be highly relevant to the whole question of mobility. We shall, in other words, see how we fit together the proposals in the Fulton Report and the new framework which will be provided by the White Paper, and all of this will demand a great deal of close discussion with the staff associations and the Civil Service Department.
This brings me to the Fulton recommendation that both of those bodies should take part jointly in a review to determine the new pattern of joint consultation which may be appropriate in the light of the Government's decisions on the Report. The Committee makes clear that any new pattern of joint consultation should reflect and not determine the results of the changes which it proposes In the meantime—I emphasise this—there is no question of any alterations in the machinery for joint consultation which has been so valuable for so long.
The Civil Service has built up a system of relationships between management and staff associations which has served as a model for civil services in other countries and has ensured that our Civil Service, notwithstanding the inevitable strains and stresses which occur from time to time, has remained virtually strike-free and has been one in whose relationships with the Government we could always take pride, whatever the complexion of the Government in power.
It has always been, and will remain, the Government's policy to ensure that civil servants are represented by accepted staff associations of their own choosing and that these shall be, through the Whitley machinery and in other ways, fully consulted about matters which concern the Civil Service. As I have said, there will be the fullest consultation about implementation of the Fulton recommendations.
On the subject of careers, the Report proposes that the Civil Service should remain a career service in the sense that 1674 most entrants should come in when they are quite young with the expectation, but not the guarantee, of a life-time's employment. This touches on something which the right hon. Gentleman said just before he sat down. The Government wholly endorse the Committee's view. We shall examine carefully what the Report has to say about establishment, and we shall give sympathetic consideration to the other constructive proposals for promoting mobility.
It does not seem that one should find any basic contradiction between maintaining the principle of a career service and stimulating a greater degree of movement than there is today in some of the ways proposed by the Committee. There need be no conflict whatever between the two aims and purposes. But what is clear is that these measures should be aimed at constantly refreshing the Service and bringing new people into something which continues to be a mainly career service rather than at radically changing the degree to which people can feel that their careers are in the Service. It is on that basis that our examination of the Committee's proposals will go forward.
Another block of recommendations relates generally to the organisation of Civil Service work. They include the Committee's proposals for introducing accountable management, for improving management services, for extending integrated teams and hierarchies, for establishing planning units, and a number of other related suggestions, to some of which the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) addressed himself when he spoke earlier today. I do not have, nor do I think that the House will expect me to have, any new decisions to announce on this today. They very much concern the way in which Departments organise themselves for the various specific jobs they have to do. A good deal of discussion and experiment will obviously be needed to decide how each Department can best adopt the methods and organisational structure ideally suited to its needs. Consultation on this and the part which the Civil Service Department will play in promoting new ideas and techniques will continue over the coming months. The Government greatly welcome the interest the Committee took in this. Like many hon. Members who have spoken today, we regard Chapter 5 1675 and Vol. II, the Report of the management consultancy group, as being among the most important parts of the Report.
I should like to say a little more about the proposal for planning units. Perhaps I can relate what I have to say to what the right hon. Member for Bexley said, a great deal of which I agreed with. The Committee saw the main task of the planning unit as being…to identify and study the problems and needs of the future and the possible means to meet them; it should also be its function to see that day-to-day policy decisions are taken with as full a recognition as possible of their likely implications for the future".The need for this kind of planning has been accepted in all Departments for some time, but they vary in the precise way in which their planning is organised within their departmental framework. There are bound to be variations, partly because the nature of the responsibilities of Departments varies so much, and partly because the relationship between planning and the day-to-day operations of a Department may vary so much according to its functions.
One example is the work of the Department of Education and Science in planning ahead for the provision of schools and staff, looking at school design and changes in educational methods that need to be represented in school design, and so on. The time between the making of the decision to build a school and the school being built is considerable. As well as being a day-to-day, operating decision, that kind of decision is related to the future. The day-to-day decision is made in the context of a general plan for the future development of education as the Government of the time see it. It would be a little artificial, perhaps, to suppose that one could clearly separate the day-to-day decision, which is itself concerned with the future and is at least planning for the medium term. Planning for the longer term may be a different matter, but the Fulton Committee was a little unclear in its definition of what it meant by "short term, medium term and long term".
My second example concerns the Department which I have just left, the Ministry of Social Security. Its civil servants are, to a considerable extent, 1676 concerned with the efficient and humane administration of schemes laid down by Statute. From their work of today may come an identification of future needs for changes in policy, but it is not surprising that in that Ministry it was absolutely necessary, in working on long-term plans for the future, to create what was in effect a separate and special planning unit.
The differences between the two Departments in the relationship between the operational, day-to-day work and the long-term planning indicate that we shall probably not be able to find one single answer that is right for all Departments, but that there will have to be variations. We shall therefore have to take time to see what will be best in each case.
The right hon. Member for Hands-worth mentioned the work of the planning unit in what is now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Here again is a special situation. I am sure that in some cases the planning unit may be separate from the operating unit, and in others not. But we shall give a great deal of thought to this.
Very often, the most effective and suitable way of ensuring that planning is effective is, as the Report and a number of right hon. and hon. Members have suggested, to cross Departmental boundaries. A great deal has already been done in this direction by official committees, Ministerial committees and by a number of other Departmental studies which are often specially commissioned, particularly in terms of our more medium term or long term planning.
One of the basic issues in the debate has attracted a number of different views not related particularly to either side of the House. This is the question of the generalist or the specialist. My impression, and that, I think, of the right hon. Member for Handsworth, is that, on the whole, the House agrees with the decision, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced today, that the Government do not propose to follow the majority recommendation on this point. But our disagreement is by no means total, and I want to come to the point which the right hon. Gentleman made. The Committee was undoubtedly on to a most important point here but the recommendation itself is, in our view, misconceived. My right hon. 1677 Friend gave one reason. I will give three main reasons why we think that the recommendation is misconceived.
First, we do not think that the available evidence supports the view that the taking of certain degree courses provides a sufficiently clear indication of what the Committee calls…positive and practical interest in contemporary problems…or, on the other hand, a lack of it. Most students choose their first degree courses without an eye at the time on any particular employment. They go on with the subject in which they have done well at school or one which has most interested them, and for the most part leave their choice of job until late in their university career, around the time when the final year is approaching.
Secondly, we should be putting ourselves at a marked competitive disadvantage were we to accept the recommendation. The Civil Service is not in a buyers' market, as the Committee has pointed out. A very high proportion of students graduate in subjects like history, English and languages—subjects which relate back largely to their school education—and this inevitably reflects itself in the range of candidates. In recent years, the Civil Service has not had a surplus of good applicants and the number would be bound to fall if there were a bias against the majority.
Thirdly, we believe that the Committee's proposal would be unworkable in practice. It would be very difficult to define "relevance" and to work out effective and fair methods of testing it. Certainly we would welcome more good applicants with degrees in economics or sociology—I am not sure whether one of my hon. Friends has a preference for sociology graduates of the L.S.E. as civil servants or Ministers—and there has been a great deal of emphasis on that in the debate. I believe that the right solution is not to import a bias for these subjects into the selection procedure but to seek people of high quality from all academic disciplines and then to build on this foundation by teaching subjects and techniques which the work of the Service needs at the Civil Service College after entry to the Service. This view seems to be the general concensus in the House.
1678 But the important point on which the Committee focused our attention was the need of the Service to select people with the potential for developing the kind of qualities and expertise which are particularly required in Government service. This means looking for the "relevant" man and his qualities have to be very widespread and various. He must have the ability to assimilate, to analyse and present information, to communicate and to be able to think in quantitative as well as qualitative terms, and he has to be receptive and open to new ideas and new techniques.
To some extent one is saying that there ought to be an injection of numeracy, but it goes much beyond that. It is a question of being able to understand the concept of the specialist and being able to explain it, and there is a long way to go to introducing into the Service enough people with the ability to assimilate and absorb and understand the qualities of the Service. I had the great advantage of learning from an official in the Scottish Education Department the techniques of critical path analysis, although in the most rudimentary way, and then being able to pass them on to members of Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service to whom they came as a new concept. We need this kind of ability to assimilate and to pass on concepts which would not normally be acquired in university training.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) will not mind my saying this, because we all recognise how great was the contribution he made to the work of the Fulton Committee, but he disturbed me a little when at one point he used the word "fudging" in relation to the Method 2 examination. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has referred to the further inquiry which is to be carried out into Method 2 entrants. It is making good progress and we hope to have the report early in the new year. It will be published and I do not propose to comment now in detail on the selection process, but to use the word "fudging" could be taken by prospective candidates to imply that they were not chosen strictly on their merits. So far is that from being the truth that I am sure that my hon. Friend would not have wanted to create any kind of impression 1679 that the selection board did not take immence care to ensure that all aspects of the performance and the qualities of a man were assessed.
§ Mr. Sheldon
The word "fudging" was used in connection with Appendix E, paragraph 16. A very good test is used initially, and a number of details are given about how the marks are added up. The word "fudging" was used for the very inaccurate method of assessment by the two Boards.
§ Mrs. Hart
I am most grateful for that explanation.
The right hon. Member for Bexley mentioned the team concept and was entirely right about this. He referred to the team concept which was used in his own negotiations for entry to the European Community. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Social Services has used it in working out the new pension scheme with a team of people from other Departments. Clearly, this is a most useful technique in bridging Departments and ensuring that everything is taken into account in working out new plans, new proposals and new approaches.
I agreed, too, with much of what he had to say about high fliers. I am sure that if the Service is to develop as we would wish it to develop, given the new structure, we must be certain that the outstanding person is identified early enough to allow his progress to be watched closely to allow him to be brought on a little faster and to rise within the Service on his performance. I am sure that this is essential. As the right hon. Gentleman said, it has been used a good deal in the Foreign and Diplomatic Service and I am sure that it is entirely relevant and needs to be used in the Home Civil Service Departments, too.
On the question of secrecy and the Official Secrets Act, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson), I am afraid that I have to disappoint him. He asked a question of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 7th November, and was told that this was being studied. I have nothing to add to that at the 1680 moment, but when there is something to add we shall be anxious to communicate it.
I turn to the relationship of Ministers with their civil servants, and their relationship to the senior policy adviser on the one hand, and to the Permanent Secretary on the other. We are really arriving, out of the Fulton Committee, at a very general agreement about what the situation is and ought to be. It is and has always been the case, as far as I know, that advice to Ministers was given not only by the Permanent Secretary, but by all the senior officials; by the deputy secretaries and under-secretaries, according to the particular area of importance, and the subject which was of concern to them.
If one has a policy adviser, and the same thing very much applies to the senior economic adviser who becomes an adviser on those aspects of policy which have economic implications, then what needs to happen, and this is recognised both by those advisers whom I know, and those Permanent Secretaries whom I know, is that they must all work together within the framework of the Ministry. Of course there may be occasions when the senior policy adviser is putting forward his view of policy through the Permanent Secretary. Equally, there may be the odd occasion when he is coming direct to the Minister.
What seems to be wrong is the kind of rigidity that would exclude either one or the other. We must aim to end those rigidities which in any way circumscribe the particular contributions that can be made, either by policy advisers or the Permanent Secretary and the senior officials. As to Ministers' appointments there is clearly an important distinction to be made between the temporary and the permanent. If the appointment is temporary, then it is clearly understood what the consequences would be if there were a change of Minister or Government. If it is permanent, then this is someone coming right into the Civil Service on a very long-term basis, and it has to be a matter for the Civil Service Commission.
This has been a discussion ranged around a four-cornered relationship. This has emerged in almost every speech. It is concerned with the Civil Service, the Ministers, Parliament and the public. In 1681 this debate, and as a direct consequence of the Fulton Report, we could not possibly solve all our problems as they stretch out into the future in this very difficult four-cornered relationships. What is certain is that one essential contribution to the solution of our problems lies in gearing the Civil Service to the new needs of our society. It is this that will follow from the Fulton Report and from the action we are proposing to take on it.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of Command Paper No. 3638 on the Civil Service.