HC Deb 21 July 1999 vol 335 cc1179-80
10. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

What progress he has made in developing opportunities for civil servants to gain relevant work experience in private companies and public institutions outside the civil service. [90880]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle)

The White Paper "Modernising Government" showed how we are promoting the exchange of people and good practice between the civil service and other organisations through the interchange initiative. Departments and agencies are on course to meet the current target of 50 per cent. of the senior civil service having experience outside Whitehall by 2005.

Fiona Mactaggart

I am glad to hear that we are on course towards that target. Will the Minister consider giving us a report on which Departments are taking initiatives, and what those initiatives are? That would allow us to encourage more short-term movements between public and private institutions and the civil service.

Mr. Kilfoyle

The initiative will certainly galvanise attitudes in the civil service and in outside organisations that benefit from civil service expertise. It will help towards the culture change that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office has identified as the sine qua non for success in delivering modernised government. A full report will be produced on how well the interchange programme progresses Department by Department.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the only relevant experience that the Labour Government seem to value is work experience with the Labour party? How else does he explain the appointment of Ian Hepplewhite as the head press officer at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport—a man who was widely reported in the press as being an aide to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and celebrating at the victory party? Mr. Hepplewhite was condemned by the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) as one of the 24 Labour party insiders who went to a lobbyist; he has now been appointed as a head press officer, having been a Labour party press officer for many years. He was appointed without a press notice or any other public information. Is that what the Government call valuing "impartiality, objectivity and integrity"?

Mr. Kilfoyle

There was a very loud reception for my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) when he mentioned an individual. I think it is extremely sad that the right hon. Lady has named an individual on the basis—[Interruption.] The right hon. Lady knows full well the terms and conditions for appointments to such posts. The byword has always been appointment on merit. People are entitled to put themselves forward for any jobs, whether as press officer, information officer or anything else. They get the position only on merit. I deplore the fact that the individual named should be maligned in the House.