HC Deb 02 April 1984 vol 57 cc644-5
35. Mr. Chapman

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on recruitment policy into the Civil Service.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Barney Hayhoe)

The Government's policy on recruitment to the Civil Service is to ensure, within the requirement of open competition on merit laid down in the Civil Service Order in Council 1982, that those appointed are best suited by aptitude, ability and, where appropriate, experience to undertake the work required of them.

Mr. Chapman

Was recruitment to the industrial and non-industrial Civil Service greatly reduced as a result of the plan to reduce total numbers from 730,000 to 630,000 in the last five years, or was the reduction achieved mainly through natural wastage and voluntary resignations?

Mr. Hayhoe

The reduction in the number of civil servants was mainly achieved by the means described by my hon. Friend, but I should point out that in 1983 the number of civil servants recruited was under half the number recruited in 1978.

Mr. Rowe

At a time when the number of applicants with high qualifications tends to exceed the number of jobs available, is the Minister confident that those who enter the service at lower levels than their qualifications would normally merit can proceed easily to the higher levels if their ability shows that they are capable of doing so?

Mr. Hayhoe

There is certainly the possibility of promotion across the whole of the Civil Service, but I must point out that, as the size of the Civil Service has been reduced, the opportunities for promotion have also been reduced.

Mr. Madden

What preparations is the Civil Service making to record the recruitment of people from the ethnic minorities? Is the Minister satisfied with such recruitment, especially within the DHSS?

Mr. Hayhoe

As the hon. Gentleman is, I hope, aware, the Civil Service has a good record on equal opportunities for both women and members of ethnic minorities. We introduced a small pilot project to look at this question. The results were encouraging, and that has been followed by two major pilot projects, which are continuing.

Mr. Stokes

Does my hon. Friend agree that loyalty should be the first requirement for recruitment into the Civil Service? Is he satisfied that the procedures are such that only those whose loyalty is assured are now recruited?

Mr. Hayhoe

My hon. Friend is right. The loyalty of civil servants is of paramount importance, and the record over many years shows that the loyalty of the vast majority of civil servants is second to none. I think that most of them regret the few occasions on which a few people depart from the very high standards that we expect of our civil servants.

Mr. Allen McKay

What effect does the Minister expect recruitment and wastage policy in the Civil Service to have on the overstretched DHSS staff?

Mr. Hayhoe

I do not think that it will have any effect. The DHSS is working very hard in carrying out central functions, distributing — as the hon. Gentleman will know—many hundreds of millions of pounds of benefit, with very few mistakes. It would be right for hon. Members in all parts of the House to pay tribute to the work of the staff in that Department. But, as in most other areas of the Civil Service, it is right that we should be seeking to reduce numbers by achieving greater efficiency and greater value for the taxpayers' money.