HL Deb 08 February 1966 vol 272 cc659-62

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, with your permission, I should like to repeat a Statement about the appointment of a Committee to examine the Home Civil Service which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made in another place. These are the words of the Prime Minister:

"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a Statement.

"In reply to the Estimates Committee, published to-day, the Government accept the recommendation that a Committee should be appointed to examine the structure, recruitment and management, including training, of the Home Civil Service.

"I am glad to say that Lord Fulton has agreed to be Chairman of this Committee. I am circulating the names of the other members in the OFFICIAL REPORT. They include the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Handsworth, the honourable Lady the Member for Hitchin, as well as distinguished representatives of industry, the universities and the public service.

"There have been many changes both in the demands placed on the Civil Service and in the educational organisation of the country, and the Government believe that the time has come to ensure that the Service is properly equipped for its rôle in the modern State. The very broad terms of reference will require a fundamental and wide-ranging inquiry in the tradition of the great inquiries of the past, such as Northcote-Trevelyan in 1853 and the Tomlin Commission in 1931. This is a strong Committee, and I hope that their recommendations will enable the Civil Service to meet the country's needs for many years to come.

"At the outset, however, I should like to make two points about the scope of the Committee's inquiry.

"First, the decision to set up this Commission does not mean that the Civil Service has been found lacking by the Government in its current operations. On the contrary, it is the experience of Ministers—and I think the right honourable Gentleman opposite would wish to join me in this—that the Service meets the demands put on it with flexibility and enterprise.

"Secondly, the Government's willingness to consider changes in the Civil Service does not imply any intention on their part to alter the basic relationship between Ministers and civil servants. Civil servants, however eminent, remain the confidential advisers of Ministers, who alone are answerable to Parliament for policy; and we do not envisage any change in this fundamental feature of our Parliamentary system of democracy."

The full membership of the Committee is as follows:

Chairman: Lord Fulton, Vice-Chancellor, University of Sussex.

Members: Sir Philip Allen, K.C.B., Second Secretary, H.M. Treasury;

Mr. W. C. Anderson, General Secretary, National and Local Government Officers' Association;

Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Boyle, M.P., Member of Parliament for Handsworth;

Sir William Cook, C.B., F.R.S., Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser, Ministry of Defence;

Sir James Dunnett, K.C.B., Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour;

Mr. Norman Hunt, Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford;

Sir Norman Kipping, K.B.E., formerly Director General of the Federation of British Industry, now Senior Consultant on International Trade, Confederation of British Industries;

Mr. Robert Neild, Economic Adviser to the Treasury;

Professor Lord Simey, Charles Booth Professor of Social Science, University of Liverpool;

Mr. John Wall, O.B.E., Managing Director, Electrical and Musical Industries Ltd.;

Mrs. Shirley Williams, M.P., Member of Parliament for Hitchin.


My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the noble Earl for repeating to your Lordships the Statement which the Prime Minister has just made in another place. May I say how glad I am that the two points at the conclusion of the Statement were clearly made by the Prime Minister? I am sure that all of us who have had experience of their work can endorse the statement that the Civil Service "meets the demands put upon it with flexibility and enterprise"—and, I would add, with efficiency.

Secondly, I am glad that the Statement has placed on record that it is not the desire or the intention of the Government to consider changes in the Civil Service which would alter the relationship between civil servants and Ministers. I think that it is right, for the reasons given in the Statement, that this inquiry, which was originally recommended by the Estimates Committee, should be set on foot. The Committee will have to discharge a function of great importance to the nation as a whole and I wish them well. I hope they will. be able to accomplish their labours fairly speedily, although I should not like to think that they will be subjected to pressure to get on too quickly with their work, because they will have some difficult problems to consider.

May I ask that attention should be given, in particular, to one branch of the Civil Service, of which I and some other noble Lords have a particular knowledge, and which, while it forms part of the whole Civil Service, does, I think, need special consideration, both in regard to its recruitment and its structure, and also in regard to its relation to the rest of the Civil Service. Your Lordships will not be surprised when I say that I am referring to the legal Civil Service. I hope that the noble Earl can give that assurance. I think that it does come within the Committee's terms of reference, though these are not specified in the Statement, which describes them as being very broad.


My Lords, I was waiting for an intervention by the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party. I must say straight away that I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for all that he has said, which will be highly valued in the Civil Service. I will call special attention to the point he has raised.