HC Deb 24 January 1994 vol 236 cc17-8
35. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the progress of equal opportunities in the civil service.

Mr. Waldegrave

The Government actively pursue a policy aimed at achieving equality of opportunity in civil service employment. The latest reports on the position of women and ethnic minorities in the civil service were published last month and placed in the Library of the House. The report on disabled employees will be published in the spring.

Mrs. Gorman

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I endorse the Government's determination to ensure that more women can make an active contribution in the civil service, but would not that policy be enhanced if women could get more help with provision for their domestic responsibilities? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if we could jointly persuade our friends at the Treasury to make the costs of child care or of looking after elderly folk back home tax deductible, women who have acquired the necessary skills and talents could make a much larger contribution to our public life and also provide many more jobs?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is perfectly right that help with, for example, child care must be a high priority for the civil service if we are to get women into senior jobs. I am well aware of my hon. Friend's long-running campaign on that and I entirely share its objectives. We are making real progress. At first management grade level—executive officer—women now have 46 per cent. of the jobs, compared with 29 per cent. as recently as 1984. That is a considerable improvement.

Dr. Moonie

How many under-secretaries?

Mr. Waldegrave

The answer is not enough, but now that the figure in the management grades is 50 per cent., that position will rectify itself.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

While the Minister is considering equal opportunities, will he seek to ensure that the political background of ministerial appointees to the quangos and other bodies now running so much of the civil service is made public, so that we may see where those appointed by Ministers are coming from politically?

Mr. Waldegrave

As the hon. Gentleman knows, civil service appointments are made through the proper machinery of the Cabinet Office. In other sectors where appointments are made by Ministers, they are always made on the basis of who are the best people for the job.