HC Deb 15 February 1988 vol 127 cc700-1
55. Mr. Robert G. Hughes

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service to what extent senior civil servants are trained in personal communication skills.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard Luce)

The Government place a high priority on training in oral and written communication skills for senior civil servants. Effective communications play a vital role within all Departments.

Mr. Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend accept that these skills are increasingly important for civil servants who deal with the public, for those seeking to give good customer care and, in particular, for those who have to deal with the media?

Mr. Luce

My right hon. Friend is right. There is no doubt about the importance of customer care and the relationship between the Civil Service and the public, especially when one considers the number of Government Departments providing services direct to the public. Individual Departments, such as the DTI, now run several courses which are designed to give special attention to training on customer care.

Mr. Tony Banks

One of the civil servants most acquainted with communications with the press is Bernard Ingham, the No. 10 press officer. By virtue of the fact that he tends to go out of his way to stab Cabinet Ministers in the back, no doubt on the orders of the Prime Minister, is there a course on the back stabbing of Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers? If there is, may we on this side have a go so that we can get ready for it?

Mr. Luce

In view of the number of diaries that have been published by ex-Labour Leaders, I would not have thought that the Labour party needed that sort of course.

Mr. Robert B. Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware that DHSS office managers in constituencies are good at writing letters that are both sympathetic and prompt, and that this is a good example of communicative skills in the Civil Service? Will he ensure that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment instructs office managers controlling unemployment benefit offices to take an equal interest in this important skill?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am glad that he has made a positive reference to the contribution of civil servants in dealing with the public and in the service that they provide. He is absolutely right. Sometimes they do this in quite difficult circumstances.

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