HC Deb 02 July 1990 vol 175 cc683-4
75. Mr. Beith

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service whether he has any plans to revise the rules governing the appointment of retired civil servants to senior positions in companies with whose subject area they have dealt during their public service careers.

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

The rules are kept under review and were last revised in 1989. I have no present plans to revise them again.

Mr. Beith

Does the Minister agree that those rules, which preclude civil servants from taking senior board appointments in companies within two years of their retirement, are an important safeguard against civil servants being suspected, perhaps wrongly, of being influenced while in office by the hope of such appointments? Is not it strange that civil servants are in that position when the Ministers whom they advise, and who frequently neglect their advice, are not subject to similar restrictions and former Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry or for Energy can take appointments in the industries that they have privatised?

Mr. Luce

The position for civil servants is as the hon. Gentleman describes. Of course, it is possible for their appointments to outside jobs to be delayed for up to a maximum of two years. It is not a rule that such appointments are delayed for two years. They can be delayed for up to a maximum of two years. Those rules have been in force for a long time. I am not directly answerable for the actions of Ministers, except for my own actions. However, the position is clear. I agree with the view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and that expressed by Lord Wilson in 1968, that it should be up to the good sense and discretion of Ministers when they retire. Clearly, they will care deeply about their public reputation. Their talents and abilities, along with those of civil servants, should be available to the nation and the private sector should be allowed to benefit from them.

Mr. Rhodes James

Is my right hon. Friend aware that anxiety about this matter is not confined to the other side of the House and that, in particular, civil servants who have received considerable salaries and pensions must be careful about their relationship with the private sector after they retire from the public sector where they received confidential and important information?

Mr. Luce

I fully acknowledge what my hon. Friend says. I am responsible for propriety, and I am most anxious to ensure that we continue with the highest possible standards. Under the rules, applications are sent to the advisory committee on business appointments and to the head of the home civil service when lower grades are involved. My hon. Friend might like to know that conditions were imposed upon more civil servants who were going to outside jobs in 1989–51 per cent.—than in 1988, when the comparable figure was 34 per cent., and in 1987, when it was 26 per cent. That is a sign that the issue is being treated seriously.

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