HC Deb 11 November 1991 vol 198 cc779-80
40. Mr. Hind

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on his proposals to counter racial discrimination in the civil service.

Mr. Renton

We shall continue to implement the programme for action on race that was introduced last year. Good progress is being made in a wide range of areas, including selection, promotion and training to make staff aware of their responsibilities. A report will be published in December and copies will be placed in the Library.

Mr. Hind

My right hon. Friend knows that I recently wrote to him about this matter. Will he reassure the House that it is his policy to encourage an increase in the number of ethnic minority civil servants, that they will be welcome within the civil service, and that equal opportunity will be extended to them?

Mr. Renton

Welcome? Yes. Equal opportunity extended to them? Yes, certainly. I am not one who believes in positive discrimination in this or in other fields, but certainly I very much hope to see the number from the ethnic minority who are employed not only in my Departments but the civil service generally continue—I stress the word continue—to increase over the years ahead.

Mr. Tony Banks

I may say to the Minister that the best way of judging how far he is succeeding is for him to tell the House the name of the most senior black civil servant within the civil service and that of the most senior woman civil servant. Then we can decide whether or not the Minister is just flannelling us or giving us something of substance. Who is the most senior black civil servant? How far up the grade?

Mr. Renton

I really do not think that is a helpful approach, although I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that my own political adviser is drawn from the ethnic minority. I am delighted to have him, and he is a very helpful member of my staff. It is the wish of us all to see that the proportion of the ethnic minorities increases. I do not think that it is high enough. As the hon. Gentleman will realise, it was only recently that we started to ask staff to tell us their ethnic origin. In the early days, a great many did not wish to answer that question. A higher proportion are now doing so as they become more convinced of our determination to give equality of opportunity.