HC Deb 25 January 1988 vol 126 cc17-8
65. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if there are any proposals to change the regulations governing the political activities of civil servants; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Luce

New rules on the political activities of civil servants, which were agreed with the Civil Service unions, were announced in the House on 19 July 1984 and introduced in September 1984. It was agreed then that the rules should be reviewed every three years. A review is consequently now taking place, but it is too early to draw any conclusions.

Mr. Banks

Is it not a fact that the Government are destroying the political impartiality of the Civil Service by using civil servants as Tory stooges? Bernard Ingham immediately comes to mind. When will the Minister address himself to the serious problem of the way in which the Civil Service is being used in a politically partial fashion by the Government, and particularly by the Prime Minister?

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman seems this afternoon to have an even greater capacity than usual to talk absolute nonsense, and that is saying something. My experience over two and a half years as the Minister of State responsible for the Civil Service has led me to believe that we have a service of which we can be highly proud. It is professional and the vast majority of civil servants are utterly impartial, and that is the way that it should be.

Mr. Cormack

Is it not a slander verging on the totally defamatory to call Mr. Bernard Ingham a stooge?

Mr. Luce

It is. My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

Dr. Marek

Will the Minister assure the House that the present review will be conducted openly between the Government and the trade unions, and that any results of the review will be mutually acceptable to both sides?

Mr. Luce

Yes, I can give that assurance to the hon. Gentleman. It is worth reminding him that the main purpose of the rules is to give maximum freedom to civil servants to take part in political activities, consistent with a need to maintain ministerial and public confidence in the political impartiality of the Civil Service.

Forward to