§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Roland Moyle)
I beg to move,That the Department of the Civil Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 30th June, be approved.In his reply on 8th June last to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), my right hon. Friend said that he had decided to create the Civil Service management division of the Department of Finance as an independent Department of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and the Order gives effect to that decision. At present, the management and control of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is vested in the Department of Finance and is exercised through its Civil Service management division. The last Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance was also head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service but, following his retirement on 30th June, the two functions of finance and Civil Service management have been separated. The present head of the Civil Service is no longer also head of the Department of Finance.
The head of the Civil Service in responsible to the Secretary of State for the co-ordination of policies and programmes of all Northern Ireland Departments and for advising him on these matters, including the allocation of resources. Also, he continues to be answerable to the Secretary of State for the direction and management of the Civil Service, and especially for recommendations on top appointments. In these circumstances, it is structurally and administratively appropriate for the present Civil Service management division of the Department of Finance to become an independent Department.
Article 3 provides for the establishment and title of the new Department. It makes provision for the distribution of its business, its style and seal and similar matters. Article 4 constitutes the new Department as the Department for the general management and control of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and substitutes it for the Department of Finance in the Civil Service Order (Northern 2429 Ireland) 1975, which deals with the making of regulations and the giving of directions about employment in the Civil Service. Further, it allows for transfer of other functions to the new Department by subordinate legislation, and we shall be examining what specific functions in regard to personnel should be transferred.
Article 5 extends the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner to the new Department and applies the provisions of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act, which make it unlawful for a Department to discriminate or to require the taking of oaths in connection with appointments.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
We should like to be convinced of the necessity of the Order. Why, precisely is a new department needed? I believe that the Minister of State mentioned 1,200 civil servants earlier this evening. Why is it necessary to upset the existing arrangements? Will any extra cost be involved at a time when the cuts announced yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if applied equally, will bite deeper into Northern Ireland than elsewhere? Is it really necessary to do this? What advantages will there be?
There seems to be a sort of itch for reorganising departments. For example, the old Ministry of Development was divided into the Department of Housing, Local Government and Planning and the Department of the Environment. Then the two were brought together again under the title of the Department of the Environment. The departmental structure is rather like an earthworm which is severed by a spade and which joins itself together. Now we have a Civil Service Department. What is it all about? Is it really necessary? Even an administrative upheaval is a costly and disturbing matter. Is it fair to the civil servants?
On behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition I pay tribute to the Northern Ireland and United Kingdom civil servants, and to the whole public service of the Province. The House and the country should be grateful for their integrity, skill, courage and devotion. Many of them live dangerously and they bear their casualties. Those who knew Judith Cook, however slightly, will realise that not only her 2430 family and friends but her country, in whose service she died, have suffered a grievous loss.
We welcomed the appointment of Mr. Brian Cubbon and hope that the Minister of State can tell us of his progress. To all who suffer from terrorist violence we extend our respectful sympathy.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
I share the somewhat critical inquisitiveness that has been voiced by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison). I have endeavoured to read the order in the light of Column 814 of Hansard, now almost miraculously available for 2nd July 1976, which contains that important State document—namely the speech of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in introducing the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order 1976.
I should like to be assured that I have understood what is going on. It appears that there are now to be three senior positions instead of one. Previously there was a Department of Finance, within which there was the Civil Service Management Division. Now there is to be the Department of Finance and the Department of the Civil Service, two separate Departments with their own heads. In addition, there is to be the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. He is a much more exalted character who is a kind of chief of staff to the Secretary of State. We were sorry not to hear the Secretary of State introducing the Order in his own person, although we heard some echoes of it in the unamended script.
Is it necessary—here I echo the hon. Member for Epping Forest—to multiply one head of department into three heads of department? No doubt they will all be different grades, but it is a distinct proliferation. We wish to be more sure than at present that we shall get that much additional efficiency from the multiplication.
Another doubt assails one. The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is not to be the head of the Department of the Civil Service but a distinct person altogether. He is to be a sort of factotum to the Secretary of State. He will advise him on all sorts of matters and co-ordinate all sorts of things, but does he have a Department? I believe that he 2431 has a Department, too, so there are three Departments. [Interruption.] Evidently I have it wrong. I shall try again. There is to be a Department of Finance, with a head. Then there is to be a Department of the Civil Service, which has its own head. But there is also to be the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
§ Mr. Powell
The Minister has cleared up a difficulty which arose out of the text of the Secretary of State's speech. All that we have is an increase of 200 per cent., not 300 per cent., in the number of heads of departments. The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is freed from his financial responsibilities but he has the use of his Department of the Civil Service, which presumably is primarily a managerial and personnel department, to assist him in his much more exalted position of chef de cabinet. What worries me still is whether the Department of the Civil Service, which is a personnel and management department, is suitable for assisting the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service in working directly to the Secretary of State,to co-ordinate the activities of all the Northern Ireland Departments and the allocation of resources amongst them."—[Official Report, 2nd July 1976; Vol. 914, c. 814.]I fear that the chef de cabinet will acquire a cabinet—not in one of the senses of that French word—and that we shall see on a small scale in Northern Ireland what we have unfortunately seen in Whitehall, where the desire for coordination under the Prime Minister has led to the building up of an ever-growing structure parallel with the regular Civil Service for the purpose of assisting the co-ordinators and those who work directly to the Prime Minister.
I fear that the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, wearing his grander hat of general co-ordinator and adviser-in-chief to the Secretary of State, will find that he requires his own little show, and that his own little show will presently cease to be all that little. There are, therefore, Parkinsonian overtones in this arrangement.
2432 I must say—and I suppose that I am betraying all the evidences of Anno Domini in saying it—that there was a great deal to be said for the old arrangement in the Civil Service whereby the head of the Treasury was also the head of the Civil Service and discharged something of this co-ordinating and advisory relationship in regard to the Prime Minister, as First Lord of the Treasury, and to the Cabinet as well as to the Second Lord of the Treasury.
I fear that we are in Northern Ireland, although on a smaller scale, going down the same fissiparous road. I do not believe that one gets the same benefits from this kind of division as one could get from the concentration of function which used to be exemplified by the old head of the Civil Service before 1956 in this country. I share the doubts that I detected in the speech of the hon. Member for Epping Forest.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
I, too, am concerned about the cost of this operation. I risked incurring some unpopularity in South Antrim by going out of my way to help the Minister and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that he will keep a keen eye on expenditure.
I do not have the benefit of the experience possessed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in the workings of the Civil Service machinery, but I should like to ask whether this eventually will develop into the equivalent of the Cabinet Office. What concerns me is what the relationship is to be with the Northern Ireland Office in the immediate future. Is there not a danger that friction might be created or might develop between the two? Are we not to some extent providing yet another layer and compounding the difficulties to which some of us drew attention? Indeed, the Minister admitted that there was some difficulty in the present administration involving two layers in the Northern Ireland Office separated from the Northern Irish Civil Service.
Finally, does Article 3(3) imply that if the Government of Northern Ireland were re-established, there would then be a new ministerial post created by this Order? If that were to happen, what would its relationship be to whoever 2433 might be the chief executive in Northern Ireland, or whatever he might be called in the new structure?
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
I agree with the views that have already been expressed on this Order. I also wish to ask the Minister whether he is aware of newspaper reports in Northern Ireland about the elevation of the pay structure, with more travel allowances and all the rest of it, in respect of English civil servants serving in Northern Ireland? I do not know what truth there is in those reports, but certain newspapers in Northern Ireland have carried banner headlines to that effect. Can he say from where the Civil Service of Northern Ireland is to recruit these personnel? Are they to be recruited from various Departments or from the Northern Ireland Office? Furthermore, what will be the situation in regard to their payments and allowances?
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Moyle
I am grateful to hon. Members for articulating in such succinct fashion, their worries about the reorganisation proposed in this Order. It gives me the opportunity to give a certain amount of reassurance.
First, there will be a splitting of an existing department. It is not, other than in name, the creation of a new department. Therefore, the question of recruiting new people outside the Northern Irish Civil Service does not arise. The civil servants who will man the Civil Service Management Department are already in the Civil Service Management Division. The people who will man the newly formed Department of Finance are already in that department. It does not mean the creation of any more senior Civil Service posts since there has already been a head of the Finance Department, a head of the Civil Service Management Division and a head of the Northern Irish Civil Service. What will happen is that their functions will be rearranged.
The basic aim of the exercise is to free the head of the Northern Irish Civil Service for functions of co-ordination and to ensure that people can concentrate on a particular task rather than possibly to have regard to other aspects of departmental work. There are no costs or extra 2434 civil servants involved. It is a rearrangement of functions.
If I may deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), if there were a Northern Ireland Executive created under some future arrangement for devolved Government, what they then did about creating Ministers and executive positions in a reorganised Department would be en-entirely a matter for them, as the present arrangement has been a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He has created different arrangements from those which existed under the power-sharing Executive.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
Is the hon. Gentleman correct in saying that it would be a matter for any new executive to decide on the arrangements? Was it not a fact that the old Stormont Parliament, when it wished to switch around and amalgamate departments, had to come back to this House for authority?
§ Mr. Moyle
It would certainly be a matter for the local Executive to recommend, anyway. It would take powerful argument to reject proposals which people on the ground thought were best for the administration of the Province.
I was pleased to hear the high compliments paid to the Northern Ireland Civil Service by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison). I wish to reciprocate all the compliments which he paid. He also raised the question of Judith Cook and Brian Cubbon, who were the civil servants involved in Wednesday morning's bomb attack. Judith Cook was killed, and her loss is a source of great sorrow to all those in the Northern Ireland Office. She was not in the Northern Ireland Civil Service. She was a United Kingdom civil servant, as is Brian Cubbon. The latest information is that Brian Cubbon is not as seriously injured as I at one time thought, although he will certainly be out of action for a long time.
Mr. Cubbon has had a long association with Northern Ireland problems. When the Prime Minister took an interest as Home Secretary in the Northern Ireland situation, Mr. Cubbon was his Private Secretary. We all very much regret what has happened to Brian Cubbon, and I 2435 am sure we would all want to send our best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.
The 1,200 civil servants of whom I spoke are members of the Northern Ireland Office, which is a United Kingdom Civil Service office. The Northern Ireland Civil Service, whose Finance Department we have been considering this evening, is a much larger organisation. Offhand, I cannot say how large, but I can say that the Department of Health and Social Security in Northern Ireland, of which I was once head, had at that stage a force of 53,000 people, with area health and social service boards involved in its operations.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I included in my tribute both United Kingdom and Northern Ireland civil servants. Would it not have been helpful if the Explanatory Note had said that there would be no cost incurred as a result of these proposals?
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Department of the Civil Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 30th June, be approved.