HC Deb 30 January 1984 vol 53 cc16-8
37. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what is his policy on recruitment to the Home Civil Service.

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

To ensure, within the requirement of open competition on merit laid down in the Civil Service Order in Council 1982, that those appointed to posts in the Home Civil Service are best suited by aptitude, ability and, where appropriate, experience to undertake the work required of them.

Mr. Atkinson

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware of the recent study by the International Monetary Fund, pointing out that Britain today has more civil servants per head of the population than any other country? If so, why are we recruiting civil servants?

Mr. Hayhoe

As my hon. Friend knows, we are having considerable success in bringing down the size of the Civil Service and now have the smallest Civil Service since the second world war. The IMF study is seriously inaccurate and misleading. The IMF will be amending its report. One of its major errors is that the numbers shown in the functional analysis as being in the administration are 440,000 too many, which is not much bigger than the total size of the non-industrial Civil Service. That report is not an accurate guide and should not be followed.

Mr. John Morris

In view of the repercussions on recruitment, will the Minister lay in the Library of the House copies of the orders recently made about the GCHQ under the Employment Protection Act and also the legal justification not only for the orders but for the agreement that employees are invited to sign not to join a union—or to resign from a union—and not to discuss with any trade union official conditions at the GCHQ?

Mr. Hayhoe

These are matters for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. I shall ask him to make sure that these documents are available in the Library of the House, if they are not available already.

Mr. Budgen

Will my hon. Friend say whether candidates for the Civil Service are told that civil servants are likely to enjoy index-linked pensions for all time?

Mr. Hayhoe

I hope that all the conditions of employment are drawn to the attention of would-be civil servants before they undertake employment in the Civil Service.

Mr. Tom Clarke

As the Minister responsible for the Civil Service, does the hon. Gentleman realise that many people take great exception to the sort of sneering that has been directed towards civil servants this afternoon? Does the hon. Gentleman recognise, as we do, the important input made to the Civil Service by, for example, those working in the Department of Employment and the Department of Health and Social Security, who are now dealing with far more people than ever before because of the high number of unemployed people and the consequences thereof?

Mr. Hayhoe

I heard no sneering from any part of the House about the conduct of civil servants. The absurdly exaggerated and emotive comments that we have heard in relation to recent Government action are wholly unjustified. The loyalty of civil servants is not in any way being questioned. From this Dispatch Box I have often paid tribute to the work done by them, in many parts of the country and in many different ways.

Mr. Marlow

Why is it not possible to recruit more people from outside into the senior levels of the Civil Service so that Government can receive advice as to why things should be done as well as why they should not be done?

Mr. Hayhoe

Some such recruitment takes place. I am always anxious that there should be as big an interchange as possible between those in the Civil Service and those in industry and commerce. I am glad to say that under this Administration the position has improved, and I trust that it will continue to do so.

Mr. Madden

Will the Minister for the Civil Service tell us whether he was consulted by the Foreign Secretary prior to last week's statement on Cheltenham? For the benefit of applicants to the Civil Service, will the hon. Gentleman say which sections of it now prohibit trade union membership?

Mr. Hayhoe

The Minister for the Civil Service is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that she was fully aware of the decisions that were announced last week.

Dr. McDonald

Is it now part of the Government's Civil Service recruitment policy to withdraw arbitrarily the freedom to join trade unions? Does the Minister accept what General George Keegan, formerly of United States Air Force Intelligence, said on the "World At One" yesterday about the United States Administration being delighted with the decision to ban trade union membership? Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Government will enter into serious negotiations with the trade unions before taking the extreme step of finally withdrawing the freedom of those civil servants to join trade unions, instead of entering into further discussions with the American Government, as the general also suggested?

Mr. Hayhoe

There is another question later on the Order Paper about a meeting that has been arranged with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Wednesday at the request of the Council of Civil Service Unions. I am sure that those discussions will be serious and responsible on the part of all those who take part in them.