HC Deb 20 March 1989 vol 149 cc728-9
51. Mr. Jack

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what has been the uptake of the bridge scheme; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Luce

I launched the bridge scheme with my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 1 March. The scheme aims to encourage secondment and exchanges between Government and business, and I hope businesses as well as Government Departments and other areas of the public sector will take full advantage of the opportunities available.

Mr. Jack

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the excellence of the advertising of the bridge scheme? Will he confirm that its success will be ensured if the right example comes from the top? How many people are currently on secondment at the Cabinet Office?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. If the scheme is to succeed in encouraging secondment both ways, it is important that people at the top of industry, as well as in the Civil Service, should encourage the process. Between 1977 and 1987, secondment quadrupled, which is a considerable improvement. I confirm that 24 people are on secondment at the Cabinet Office—10 out and 14 in. There are 1,600 staff in post in the Cabinet Office, and at grade 7 and above 64 per cent. are on loan from other Government Departments.

Mr. Tony Banks

is that what the Americans call the "revolving door" with which John Tower had so many difficulties? What safeguards are in place to ensure that cosy relationships do not develop between senior civil servants, Ministers and defence and other suppliers to the Government through contracts?

Mr. Luce

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not welcome the idea of more exchanges between civil servants and the private sector. Surely it is healthy for both the Civil Service and the private sector to learn how the Government work and for the Civil Service to learn how commerce and industry work. I think that the Civil Service will welcome a breath of fresh air from the outside.

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