HC Deb 02 July 1997 vol 297 c284
7. Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he is proposing to recruit senior civil servants from a broad educational background. [4933]

Mr. Kilfoyle

The Government will continue to ensure that selection for senior civil service posts is on merit, regardless of educational background. The merit principle applies equally to serving civil servants promoted to the senior civil service and, of course, to those recruited from elsewhere.

Mr. Sheerman

From my temporary perch on the edge of this Bench, may I ask my right hon. Friend to read the Civil Service Commission annual report? It is worrying that there has been a substantial drop in the number of people from ethnic minorities who have been recruited into the senior civil service, and that only 23 per cent. of those getting into the fast stream are women. Can we be content with the fact that senior civil service recruitment is entirely dominated by Oxbridge? Is it not time that the other hundred decent universities supplied a good share of senior civil servants?

Mr. Kilfoyle

There is a monitoring process to ensure that ethnic minorities and women are appropriately represented in the senior civil service. The numbers being recruited from Oxbridge fell from 44 per cent. to 36 per cent. in the three years from 1993–94 to 1995–96. The fast stream development programme is designed to ensure that recruitment is from the widest range possible of appropriate higher education institutions and other bodies.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is it not to the House that policy makers look for a broad educational background, very little, or in some cases almost none at all, but from the civil service Her Majesty's Government have the right to expect impartial advice of the highest quality? Is not the hon. Gentleman right to insist that civil servants should be recruited on merit, particularly in the upper ranks, and that there should be no question of reverse or any other kind of discrimination?

Mr. Kilfoyle

I am happy to agree with the hon. Gentleman: yes, I am quite right. Criteria are set down to ensure that the highest possible calibre of civil servants are recruited, and that is the Government's aim.