HC Deb 13 June 1988 vol 135 cc17-8
76. Mr. Cran

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many new recruits to the Civil Service in 1987 were appointed directly at principal level or above; and how many temporary appointments were made of individuals on secondment from bodies in the private sector.

Mr. Luce

In 1987, 184 staff were recruited to permanent Civil Service appointments at grade 7—principal—level or above. A further 124 appointments at those levels were made on secondment from industry and commerce for periods of at least three months.

Mr. Cran

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the figures that he has given. Does he agree that maximum contact between the Civil Service and business is beneficial to both, as each can learn from the other? I hope and expect that my right hon. Friend will come back in a year's time with even better figures.

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There has been an increase of 400 per cent. in secondment to and from the Civil Service since 1979, but from very low starting figures. I wish to see a substantial increase in that and other areas. I believe that direct entry at a later age by people with experience in other walks of life is extremely healthy and strengthens the Civil Service. I am currently reviewing other ways in which we can assist this interchange, such as the Whitehall and industry scheme, the non-executive directorships and the very good training courses provided by the Civil Service.

Mr. Janner

How many of those appointed were women, and how many were members of ethnic minorities? What steps, if any, were taken to comply with the codes of the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission in monitoring the appointments?

Mr. Luce

To be specific on all those questions, I should have to write to the hon. and learned Gentleman. Women make up about 50 per cent. of the Civil Service as a whole, but not at sufficiently senior levels, although we seek to encourage this as best we can. The same applies to the ethnic minorities. At national level, representation of black and Asian people is roughly the same as in the general population, but again the issue of promotion prospects will have to work its way through. My task is to ensure that we remain equal opportunity employers.

Mr. Holt

My right hon. Friend has given some interesting information about the upper levels of the Civil Service, but is he not concerned about the situation for junior ranks in London, which is so appalling that almost as many temporary as permanent staff have to be employed in the clerical grades? Could not much of the problem be overcome by generating jobs in the north of England, an issue on which we keep hearing promises but have seen no action?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend is right about the problems in London and the south-east, not just in the Civil Service, but in other sectors. Until recently we have had a dispersal policy. We also have a relocation policy. The end result is that today four out of five civil servants work outside London. The present climate and market pressures mean that there are incentives for further changes in that direction, which I hope will lead to the result that my hon. Friend seeks.

Dr. Marek

Has there been a shortfall in the Government's plans for direct entry at grade 7 and above? If so, has the shortfall anything to do with the low rates of pay in the Civil Service? Irrespective of that aspect, are there sufficient civil servants at senior executive officer level ready for promotion to principal?

Mr. Luce

I am not aware of any major shortfalls in the direct entry process. An encouraging feature of the last direct entry round was that 50 per cent. of those who succeeded in the competition were people who wished to join the Civil Service after years of experience in the private sector. That is a healthy trend.

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