HC Deb 02 February 2000 vol 343 cc1028-9
3. Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

What plans she has to hold more open days in Government Departments. [106584]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Graham Stringer)

Open days are an important way of making Departments more accessible to people from all backgrounds. The Cabinet Office held its first open day in November last year. Other Departments have already held similar open days; some plan to hold their first later in the year. Achieving a dramatic improvement in diversity is a central plank of our civil service reform programme.

Mr. Coaker

Will my hon. Friend do as much as he can to encourage as many open days as possible in various Departments across government? Students attended the Foreign Office's many recent open days and they are a good way of encouraging diversity so that people from a wider variety of backgrounds enter the civil service.

Mr. Stringer

My hon. Friend is quite right: open days are a way of attracting people from all backgrounds, including ethnic backgrounds, into the civil service. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, GCHQ and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions are to hold open days later this year and it is important to get across the fact that a person does not have to be a white male middle-class graduate of Oxford or Cambridge to get into the civil service.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

Will taxpayers be able to visit Departments on those open days to see whether they are getting value for money for the extra £4 million that the Government are squandering on armies of special advisers?

Mr. Stringer

The hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about special advisers. I think what he objects to is the fact that the Government are putting forward their policies effectively. If he looks at the figures on expenditure at the centre of government, he will find that in real terms there has been an overall reduction of 5 per cent.

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