HC Deb 07 July 1986 vol 101 cc17-8
57. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if, pursuant to his answer of 16 June, Official Report, column 743, to the lion. Member for Leicester, East, he will list the groups regarded as subversive for the purpose of prohibition on employment on work vital to the security of the state.

Mr. Luce

No, Sir.

Mr. Bruinvels

Will my right hon. Friend include members of the Militant Tendency and its supporters who, I believe, are subversive? Does he recall that it was Militant that organised the great dispute at the DHSS office in Newcastle, costing the taxpayer £170 million? Does my right hon. Friend realise that John Macreadie's election is a danger to this nation's security, is anti-democratic and involves an organisation that seeks to undermine our valid Parliament? Surely something should be done urgently to purge Militant from the Civil Service.

Mr. Luce

I understand what my hon. Friend says, but I must point out that the general secretaries of these unions are union officials, not civil servants. Therefore, they have no more access to the Civil Service than an ordinary visitor, and the ordinary security precautions prevail. I repeat what I have said before to my hon. Friend: No one is precluded from employment in the Civil Service because of membership of a particular organisation. However, no one may he employed on work vital to the security of the state who is or has recently been a member of a Communist or Fascist organisation or of a subversive group whose aims are to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means," [Official Report, 16 June 1986; Vol. 99, c. 743.]

Mr. Soley

Is there not a case for looking again at Lord Denning's wise judgment, that "subversion" should be defined as undermining the state by unlawful means? That would enable people, including the hon. Member:for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels), to give evidence to the police, or else deal with the matter in the normal way.

Mr. Luce

The criterion is well established. It was established in 1975 by the former Labour Government, and I am content to stick to that.

Sir Anthony Grant

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the worrying aspect of this infiltration is that, if it increases, there will be an increased tendency for Ministers, whatever their party, to bring into government their political nominees, and we shall thereby lose the benefits, which we have had for many years, of an impartial Civil Service?

Mr. Luce

I strongly reinforce my hon. Friend's comments on the need for an impartial Civil Service. The heart of the stability of our system is that we should have an impartial Civil Service which is loyal to any elected Government. We are entitled to that, and I believe that we have a Civil Service which, broadly speaking, is impartial, loyal, dedicated and professional.

Dr. MacDonald

Is the Minister aware that, despite his statements about the need for an impartial Civil Service and the fact that that is what we have—I entirely support those sentiments—the Government have worsened relationships between the Civil Service and the trade unions by their ban on trade union membership at GCHQ? Will he confirm, or deny, today's press reports that the director of GCHQ, Sir Peter Marychurch, has been asked to stay on until June 1988. one year after he is due to retire? Does he agree that the Government are perhaps hoping thereby to ensure that management at GCHQ is able to persuade an incoming Government to maintain the trade union ban'? Will he take on board the fact that the Labour party, when it takes office after the next general election, will do nothing whatsoever of the kind and that it will reverse the Government's decision and allow trade union membership to continue at GCHQ?

Mr. Luce

I have already said on several occasions that the question of GCHQ is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. It is wrong to take the view that the Government have not taken account of conditions in the Civil Service. The latest pay settlement shows that we are taking fully into account movements in the pay sector outside the Civil Service.

Mr. Gow

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his earlier answer, when he said that the conduct of elections of trade union officials is a matter for the trade union? Does he agree that there is a wider and legitimate national interest in securing that elections for office in trade unions are conducted in every respect with scrupulous fairness and integrity?

Mr. Luce

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.