HL Deb 24 July 1968 vol 295 cc1078-194

4.9 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, as I understand it, the position is that the Government have accepted in principle the main conclusions of the Report which is the subject of the debate this afternoon, subject, naturally, to the, possibility of modifying them when it comes to applying them over the years. But I must say that I rather hope that they will take serious account of any criticism or suggestion that may be made in relation to the Report in this House this afternoon. One has only to look at the list of speakers to realise that there are in this House some of the greatest possible experts on the Civil Service: noble Lords who have perhaps as much experience of the Civil Service as the authors of the Report themselves—perhaps even more. But may I say that we on these Benches also approve of this Report in principle and more especially of the great majority of its main conclusions and recommendations.

In particular, I believe that on the evidence submitted it was clearly right to recommend that there should be constituted a separate Civil Service Department, under the ultimate authority of the Prime Minister. There never seemed to us to be any overriding reason for placing the Civil Service under the Treasury, and I believe that its removal from that Department will be in the interests of the nation and, indeed, I should have thought, in the interests of the Treasury itself. But whether the Civil Service Commission should be actually embodied or incorporated in this new Department—which I think is the proposal of the Commission—is to my mind rather more open to doubt. Perhaps this will not result in the future in any undue political pressure being put upon members of the Commission, but who can tell? I know that in another place about a month ago the Prime Minister said that some specific and formal arrangements will be made to ensure the continued independence and political impartiality within the new Civil Service Department of the Civil Service Commission in the selection of individuals for appointment to the Civil Service. That is very good so far as it goes, but if it is necessary to make these stringent regulations and precautions, why was it necessary to embody the Commission into the Department at all? Why not let it go on being independent as it now is? Perhaps the Government would like to give their views on that particular question when they come to reply.

We also like the proposal to set up what is called a Civil Service College. Here I hope that I am not under any misapprehension, though I must say that I have not read the Report with all the attention that it deserves, and it is possible that I am. I am not certain that I speak for all my colleagues on this particular point, but certainly I should have wished the proposals to go even further in the direction of something more equivalent to the famous Ecole Nationale d'A d-ministration, of which, as the Minister has said, an excellent account is given in Appendix C. We ought not to be too frightened of an élite to run the country. Incidentally, I know that under the French system all the top administrators have to speak fluently one language other than their own, and to possess at least the rudiments of another language. My Lords, how many of our top civil servants in this country can speak one language other than their own fluently? I do not know. Perhaps some noble Lords who will be speaking in the debate and who have an intimate knowledge of the Civil Service will be able to tell us how many there are. If there are very few, then it seems to me that this in itself is a slight evidence of a certain provincialism. I do not say this as a general criticism, but I do think there is a certain provincialism in the mentality of some of the administrators in this country who do not know as much about foreign countries or of the Continent of Europe as they should, and, indeed, as their opposite numbers in France apparently do at the present time.

Then we are told in Appendix C that the chairman and some of his colleagues were much struck by the fact that the men in posts of very high responsibility in France are often remarkably young compared to their British counterparts. Was it the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who said that it was not necessarily a good thing to push on young people in the Civil Service, and that it was perhaps better to keep the average age of the top administrators fairly high? I am not so sure about this.


My Lords, with respect, that is not what I said. What I said was that drive and thrust were not confined to the younger generation of civil servants.


That is broadly so, I agree. But, on the other hand, it may be said that though they are not confined naturally to the younger civil servants, if there is a considerable element of youth in it the total amount of drive and thrust in the Service may well be increased. That is, anyhow, the suggestion of the authors of the Report. They say that it appears to be well accepted that a young man may be put into a central post close to Ministers and may later move away from the centre to take charge of a job of a more managerial character within a Ministry or great organ of State like the Conseil d'Etat, or indeed outside the Civil Service altogether. The existence, they continue, of these outlets to reward the older man—because that is in a way an outlet; the older man, too, will be able to move on outside the Civil Service—makes possible the turnover in the central positions, which affords opportunities to bring forward the younger man. This seems to me admirable as a basis for a system, and I personally hope that the institution of the Civil Service College will result in the application in this country, at any rate to a certain extent, of this particular principle. Perhaps the noble Lord when he comes to reply will also let us know whether the Government have any views on this point.

While I am on it, may I say that it seems clear that what we in this country want, broadly speaking, is more Polytechnicians in the French sense; that is to say, a chosen few—an élite if you will—grounded in the sciences and economics and in managerial disciplines, too, who are in France (as we read) interchangeable between the Civil Service and industry, and who have even been known to penetrate the Diplomatic Service, as well, though I am not, of course, speaking that at the moment. It appears that these élites in France tend sometimes to be rather arrogant. This is mentioned in the Report, and it is no doubt a disadvantage, but I suggest that if you adopt this system at all it is something which you just have to put up with. Anyway, if it is a straight choice between arrogance and inefficiency, I personally should be entirely on the side of arrogance. Therefore, I should welcome some elaboration of the Government's view on the development of the Civil Service College; how they expect it to work out in practice, and whether any progress can be made in the directions that I have indicated.

Another feature of the Report of which we on these Benches approve is the abolition of the present multifarious classes, which should halt any tendency for the Service to become a rather complicated mandarinate and give all members a feeling that they have, potentially, the famous Field Marshal's baton in their knapsack. The gradual development of a group of economic and financial administrators, and a second group of social administrators, also seems to us to be sensible. A man who is well qualified, or turns out to be well qualified, to run the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Education, for instance, is not necessarily the right man to run the Treasury or the Board of Trade. I think it would be wrong to become too specialised, and it should obviously be possible to switch people from one group to another if it seemed particularly desirable to do so. But, in general, we think that this is likely to be a salutary reform. We like, also, the emphasis on management, to which reference has already been made, and on making civil servants acquainted with the quite new and rather complicated managerial techniques. I think that there has lately been some criticism levelled at the present Civil Service by quite intelligent people in the City to this effect; and, indeed, I myself made some allusion to it in a speech I made not long ago on the machinery of Government.

Finally, we think that the proposals regarding the recruitment by Ministers of small numbers of experts on a temporary basis (I think I have the phrase right) is no doubt acceptable in principle and corresponds to the practice of the last few years. But here we should like to express a small caveat. Surely, when a Minister comes to power and wishes to nominate independent outside experts on his staff, he should only be able to do so with the concurrence of the new Civil Service Department under the ultimate authority of the Prime Minister. It would usually, no doubt, be a formality, but approval should surely be sought. No doubt the temporary appointments which most Ministers might desire to make would be quite unexceptionable, but it is conceivable that they might wish to insert into the machine men who because of their known views might be considered to be some kind of disturbing element or they might even be—let us face it frankly—a security risk. It would surely be right, therefore, that the last word in the appointment of such outside temporary officials should lie with the Prime Minister. Perhaps that is the intention; I do not know, but I should like to be assured that it is.

All the features in regard to which I have so far expressed our approval are, I am glad to note, more or less in harmony with the evidence of the Liberal Party which we gave to the Commission in 1966. But I should now like to express a few criticisms of certain features of the Report. In the first place, we rather doubt—and I think that this is contrary to the views of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, but I am not quite sure—whether the studies pursued by candidates for the Civil Service at university should necessarily be regarded as "relevant" from the point of view of ultimate selection for service. Many students, I am told, and I believe, tend to change their studies during the course of their time at university, and in any case they probably do not make up their minds in advance as to what career they are eventually going to take. So we should hope that the Government would not necessarily adopt this criterion when considering the question of recruitment.

Then there is the proposal that there should be established under the Department what are called "senior policy advisers" who would run a kind of planning establishment of their own. I must say I should have thought that it is possible that this might lead, if it is not very cleverly applied, to administrative chaos, unless, of course, the senior policy adviser is firmly under the ultimate authority of the Permanent Secretary and has not the right to go straight to the Minister and insist on some major decision of which the Permanent Secretary is totally unaware and to which he might quite conceivably himself object. I know that the Commission hold that working arrangements should be informal, as they say, and variable from Department to Department, leaving it to Ministers to determine the actual pattern of the administration administered. That is quite right, but at the same time is it not a little dangerous? Surely, there must be one man who is generally responsible for the Department under the Minister, and if the Minister cannot get on with this individual then he has a perfect right to replace him with somebody else.

Of course, the head of the Planning Board, or what is called the Chief Specialist, should have the right to see the Minister and put forward his own proposals. Nobody would dispute that. But here is the point; they should either be cleared in advance with the Permanent Under-Secretary, or the Chief Specialist or the Chief Planning Officer should know that it is not something which the Permanent Under-Secretary would take violent exception to himself. Nor do I think (and here I may be wrong) that what is called "forward planning" can really be entirely separated from general administration. I think that that is probably so. The general policy to be pursued by the Department is something which obviously combines the present and the future, and I should therefore hope that this particular proposal might be looked at again in regard to its practical application.

As a more general criticism, which I certainly have not time to go into at the moment, I would say that there does not perhaps seem to have been quite sufficient investigation of the possibility of reducing the total number of civil servants. The figures given on page 97 under the heading "Manpower", though they may not be very frightening nevertheless show a steady upward tendency from 388,000 in 1955 to 472,000 in 1968. Here, the greatest increase seems to have been in the clerical category, and to a lesser extent in the professional, scientific and these sort of spheres, while the administrators—this is an interesting point—do not seem to have increased in numbers at all.

The Commission point out that acceptance of their proposals will result in an even greater increase in the total numbers. Planning units, the Civil Service College, the Civil Service Department, and so on, will obviously need additional people to serve them. But while this is so, I cannot help thinking that a rather severe investigation of what the existing 472,000 employees actually do might well result in proposals for a reduction in the number of posts, which would lead at any rate to no further increase of the total number of people, given the present inevitable increase. I do not think there is any reference (I may be wrong here) to Parkinson's Law in the entire Report, but I am sure that in anything to do with the Civil Service it is an extremely relevant law.

This brings me, my Lords, to my final criticism. It is just not fair to refer to the bulk of the present administrative classes as inspired by the philosophy of the amateur. Whatever else they are or may be, the higher civil servants whom I have met in the past seem to me to be entirely professional in their outlook. I do not think, therefore, that this particular term is one which should have been selected to describe their philosophy. It is true that you can say, if you like, that people trained in general administrative techniques are "generalists" as opposed to specialists; certainly, one could say that. But I very much doubt whether you can deduce from that that they are not suitably qualified to cope, for instance, with the correct employment of scientists or specialists of various kinds. They might be better able to cope with the specialists, and so on, if they have in the future been through something like, as I say, the École Nationale d'Administration, or have received the same kind of upbringing as a Polytechnicien; and this, as I say, I hope will happen. But that the élite in the Civil Service should be managers of men rather than specialists is a principle of the greatest importance.

I remember very well how, when I was in charge of an organisation during the early part of the war, known as the S.O.E., we went down to Anti-Aircraft Command, I think at Uxbridge, to get advice on the best way to manœuvre Lysander and Wellington aircraft conveying agents to France and Europe generally through the German antiaircraft barrage—a difficult and important subject. We were the guests at lunch of the General Commanding, a perfectly splendid man called Sir Frederick Pile, who, I am glad to note, is still with us, and may well be known to some of your Lordships. When he was not exercising his military command he was, I gathered at lunch, very interested in fox-hunting. During lunch I said that I knew he had a number of scientists on his staff and asked how he managed to cope with them and with the advice they gave, seeing that he, presumably, like myself, knew little or nothing about science. "That is quite all right, my dear fellow", he said, "I manage them perfectly well. They are like my hounds. I tell 'em by their cry". There seems to me to be a great deal to be said for this general technique. In any case one thing is certain: the anti-aircraft command was an extremely efficient organisation, second to none in efficiency in the whole war.

In conclusion, I would repeat that I trust the Government will examine this important, and in many ways very good, report in the light of the criticisms which I am sure will be advanced during the debate this afternoon by those much more expert in the matter than I am.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, it is with great diffidence that I embark on a maiden speech. I am in special need of your customary indulgence as, owing partly to the demands of the Royal Commission on Local Government, I have not been as regular an attender in your Lordships' House as I would wish.

I speak in this debate, of course, as an old civil servant; and as one who, during the war years, served in that management division of the Treasury which has come under such severe criticism in the Fulton Report. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, all (or anyhow most) civil servants welcome the opportunity that the Report gives for making a number of much needed changes in the Service. Few of us, I think, would agree with all the recommendations; none of us, I am sure, would accept all the criticisms. There is great indignation in the Service that the Committee wholly failed to acknowledge the great efforts that have been made by the Service to adapt to the changing scope of Government and to improve their methods and their management. But again I am sure that no civil servant, past or present, wants to spend time on that. The point is, again as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton said, that the Report gives the new Civil Service Department a chance to make a start on those reforms which many civil servants have for long felt are badly needed.

I should like to concentrate on what seemed to me to be the two central themes in the Report. The first is the criticism made by the Committee of what they call the "amateur". That word, of course, hit the headlines, and I think it was the wrong word. It entirely failed to recognise the very high degree of professionalism of the administrative civil servant. Nevertheless, I see what the Committee meant, and although I wish they had chosen their language more precisely, I think there was a great deal in it.

I believe it is true that in the Service we have overdone what they call the "cult of the generalist", and the higher one goes in the Service the truer this has been. Far too often, to my way of thinking, Permanent Secretaries have been appointed to take charge of Departments who have come from some quite different area of government and with, inevitably, no real knowledge of the work of the Department, of the clients of the Department or of the concepts that rule the Department. This has been done on the theory that administration is an art that can be applied to any subject. Sometimes indeed it has been done more to solve a personnel problem elsewhere than in the interests of the Department concerned. And one is bound to get this if the main concern with making these appointments is that of central management and not of the Department. However, I should like to return to that theme later.

When the Committee came to their proposals for curing what they described as this amateurism, the first was one with which I think we would all agree. It was that we need in the Service very much better career planning. Nobody should underestimate the difficulties of this, particularly in a Service made up of a number of independent Departments; and efforts have been made, not least by the Treasury, to secure better career planning. But by and large it has all been too little and too late, and I am sure that in emphasising the need for this the Committee were quite right.

I come now to another of the recommendations to which reference has already been made in this debate. It is the recommendation to give preference to what the Committee called "relevant qualifications" in selecting entrants to administrative work. This is very much more dubious. Relevant qualifications in the view of the Committee are the social studies, mathematics, biology, the physical sciences, engineering—I think that was the list. I would entirely agree with the minority who said that the Service could not afford thus to narrow their field of selection. But I think there is another reason, just as important, for not going with this recommendation. That is that the study of history, of philosophy, of all the humanities, is just as relevant to the work of Government to-day as ever it was. So I very much hope that the Government will not accept that particular recommendation.

I think that specialisation should come after entry, and then I agree that it should come. The Committee recommended two methods for this: one, career planning, to which I have already referred, and the other, training—training both in the techniques of management and in the special subject matter of a particular field of administration. I agree that their emphasis on the need for greater training of both these types was right; but in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said. I cannot believe in this proposal for a Civil Service College. This has nothing to do with the French school; it has nothing to do with a school for the élite.

If you look at the jobs which this College is to do (I think they are set out in paragraph 100), it will be found that they cover a very wide field, both of subjects and of different types of civil servants, with different qualifications, of different ages. It would be an enormous affair, and in my belief a very mediocre one for that reason. I believe that the right approach to this is that if the training that is needed can be given, and given well, in some university or other educational institution, that is the right place to give it rather than in a Civil Service College; and I cannot help feel- ing very doubtful whether there is a need for this Civil Service College at all.

Another recommendation made by the Committee which I think goes to this question of the amateur was the one, to which reference has been made, that Departments should institute more regular arrangements for long-term policy planning and for the related research. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said, I do not think most Departments could claim that they do this well, if indeed they do it at all. I believe that this is a real defect in the Civil Service. No doubt the cause has been, as has been said, the endless difficulty of finding men for the jobs there are to do: it is no good planning for to-morrow if you think you are not going to survive to-day. Nevertheless, I think this has to be done, and done much more effectively than it is at the moment.

But I do not go with the Committee —and here I am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—in thinking that this should be done in no relationship to the day-to-day work of the Department, but quite separate from that. Nor do I accept that it should not be under the control of the Permanent Secretary, something in which apparently the Permanent Secretary is not thought to take a great deal of interest. Well, perhaps the Committee had some justification in feeling that Permanent Secretaries had not taken as much interest as they should have done in this. Nevertheless, this is where the interest must be taken. I should have thought that if there was one job which was central to the work of the head of a Department, it would be not only the long-term policy planning, but also the settlement of the priorities for the related research. There is an awful lot of ruin in research, and I think one needs to get one's priorities quite firm in what is going to be done.

Generally, on this theme, I think it is a condition of the success of our Civil Service system that there should be complete confidence between Ministers and their chief officers, both administrative and specialist; and in particular I am thinking of Ministers and their Permanent Secretaries. It did seem to me that at points the Committee faltered over this. The theme of their Report was that we should get better civil servants and, ex hypothesi, better Permanent Secretaries. Yet here and there they said, "Well the Minister had better have outside advisers, or young dashing policy advisers, or whatever". It seemed to me that at some points the Committee were not quite confident in their own recommendations. I am quite sure from all my experience that unless we do develop a relationship of complete confidence, real confidence, by the Minister in the Permanent Secretary, the machine will grind and there will be confusion and disarray. Above all, what we have to try to secure is conditions in which Ministers will be able and willing to place complete confidence in their chief officers.

My Lords, the other theme on which I should like to say something is the role of central management. There has been a general welcome for the proposal that a new Civil Service Department should be set up to take over the management functions of the Treasury. I, with others, agree with that. But I do not agree that the role of central management needs, as the Committee say, to be enlarged. I think that some of our troubles in the Service have come from the fact that central management has tried to take too large a role. It is, I believe, extremely important to emphasise the responsibility of the individual Departments for their own efficiency, and it should be the main concern of the Civil Service Department to provide the conditions in which Departments can secure, and will secure, their own efficiency. It is the best route to efficiency, given, of course, that you have the right men in charge.

That is always the question. What do you do if you do not? You cannot always win, and will not always win. Everyone knows this in every organisation. You make mistakes; or people who start well do not finish so well. Well, partly, you have to accept this. This is the condition of a permanent Service. But the Committee did suggest (and I think this is not something to which reference has been made to-day) that earlier retirement should be made more possible. I think that this must be right. It is not a sovereign remedy; the idea of "hiring and firing" is obviously at odds with the whole concept of a permanent Service; nevertheless, something more could be done. I myself have never seen why we do not in the Service make it a condition of appointment to the highest jobs that nobody will be allowed to hold them for more than 10 years, and that at any time, given reasonable notice, it may be necessary in the interests of the Department to ask for early retirement. I do not suggest this would make a dramatic difference, but I think it could be useful.

Finally, my Lords, there was one subject which was outside the terms of reference of the Committee; that is the machinery of government. There is today great confusion in some areas of Government about the allocation of responsibility between Departments. The Committee suggested that it should be a function of the new Civil Service Department to advise the Prime Minister on the proper allocation of responsibilities between Departments. But if there are to be radical changes—and in my belief, in some areas, radical change is needed—it will require the greatest determination, at the highest levels. It is the most difficult of subjects. Both Ministers and civil servants suffer acutely from the present confusion of responsibilities and multiplicity of Departments; yet there would be enormous resistance to radical changes from both Ministers and civil servants. That is the irony of it. But unless we can tackle this problem of the machinery of government, whatever changes are made in the Civil Service, it will still work under appalling handicaps.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that an apology is almost due to the noble Baroness who has just sat down; that the words of congratulation should come to her from such a specialist branch of your Lordships' House as the Episcopal Benches. But I believe that when she first arrived in this world she was soon welcomed into the arms of her father, who was an Anglican clergyman; so perhaps there will be something homely about her receiving her first welcome as a speaker from someone dressed in these robes. I, like all of us, knew her name so well, for her name was a familiar one in our ears; but I did not have a very clear visual image of her until to-day. I think that I had a kind of complex picture of Deborah, the Abbess of Whitby and Portia all mixed together; but the half is not told us, and we look forward very much to many more of these calm and competent contributions based on a very long experience of public life.

I have not many qualifications for speaking in this debate, but I have at least one small one, and that is that for five years during the last war I was seconded to the Ministry of Information. I could a tale unfold about all that, but suffice it to say that a Ministry that included Mr. John Betjeman, the present Poet Laureate, Mr. Nicholas Bentley, the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor (whom we are pleased to see sitting in his place), was not exactly a typical Ministry! But all the same, I did learn during those years a great deal that has been very helpful to me in afterlife, and I certainly developed a real appreciation of the standards of integrity and discretion that then, as now, animated the general run of our civil servants. I did learn, looking back on it, the two sides of Civil Service work that often have to be kept separate. There is that task which is fulfilled by knowing and judging, and that task which is fulfilled by doing and creating. I will not stop to illustrate that in detail from the Ministry of Information, but it is something that I believe runs right through our services, and we sometimes wrongly criticise one section of the Civil Service because we are unconsciously judging it by a standard that is more appropriate to the other.

I have found it extremely stimulating to read and study the Report of the Fulton Committee. It is a document which will undoubtedly take its place among others as indicating a moment in the evolution of our social life and institutions. No small gratitude is due to the Committee for reprinting the Northcote-Trevelyan Report and the Report on the India Civil Service from 1953 and 1854 respectively. It was fascinating to read those Reports over famous names like those of Thomas Babington Macaulay and Benjamin Jowett. The style of these Reports shows only a few signs of their Victorian provenence as, for instance, when one of them speaks of "the parents and friends of sickly youths" endeavouring to obtain for them employment in the service of the Government. Some of the phrases of the old Reports have in fact found their way into the new. When I came to the phrase, for instance, "the conduct of our affairs" I thought we should not use pompous phrases like that nowadays, only to find this particular phrase forms the concluding words of the new Report. It is good to think that continuity prevails even in the writing of such Reports over intervals of a hundred years.

In spirit, of course, the Fulton Report is a contemporary document, or, shall I say, a nearly contemporary document, for I felt that it expressed characteristically the social ideas that were in the ascendant about seven years ago, the ideas, shall we say, of the book, The Anatomy of Britain, and the articles in the Sunday newspapers of that period. If we were to sum it up in a few loaded phrases, we might say that it began by rejecting Pope's phrase, "Whatever is, is best" and replacing it with, "whatever is, is worst", or it is 'at least worse than you can find in America, in France or in Sweden. A critical attitude to amateurism in all its forms was its characteristic note. In sport, all amateurs were "shamateurs"; the existence of Cowdreys and Dexters was a troublesome anachronism for sports writers. To be the son of your father was a serious disqualification for executive responsibility if he happened to be the managing director of a business. All universities were equally good with the possible exception of those which had been pre-eminent for centuries.

Some of all this has become a bit flyblown in the intervening years. The mighty France has proved to be rather more precariously balanced even than little England. The great America has her own difficult and indeed tragic problems. The older universities with their colleges and tutorial systems have so far proved less vulnerable than those where permissiveness was the order of the day. The anarchy which was praised in the Reith Lectures by the Provost of King's does not look quite to attractive when actually tried out in the Sorbonne. So it is that the attack on "generalism" in this Report, the decrying of all that is in any sense amateur—all that is done for the love of the thing—does not read quite so convincingly as it would have done even a few years ago. In any case, some of the arguments in the Report are contradictory. The "all-rounder" is to go, but the specialists are to be given special training outside their specialism, and what can be the purpose of this except to qualify them to be more like all-rounders?

I think most will agree that the abolition of classes is a good and necessary step. It is excellent that there should be complete freedom of movement up the scale. But the argument advanced in favour of it at the foot of page 67, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has to be taken with a pinch of salt. There it is said that not only is the difference between the Administrative Class and the other classes a source of trouble and frustration, but it goes so far as to say that all differences between classes are themselves a source of worry and a sense of inferiority. This seems to me to be going rather far and I think we have to watch it rather carefully. We may get rid of one kind of hierarchy but we shall certainly have to produce another. We always think at moments like this of the famous words of Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida: Take but degree away; Untune that string, And hark what discord follows There must in any vast organisation be some grouping and grading, however fairly it is arrived at.

I find myself in the main in sympathy with the minority reservation of the noble Lord, Lord Simey. No one can accuse him of being backward looking or out of touch with modern social developments. But he finds it necessary to stress the importance of the best possible general education as a source of those qualities of wisdom and judgment which are absolutely essential in work of this degree of responsibility. Surely it must be seen that the ability to turn quickly from one subject to another and to bring to bear on it the same qualities of mind and judgment is itself a professionalism of the highest character. The Report is itself clear proof of this, for what is it but evidence that a group of first class minds can address themselves to a very large, largely strange, subject and soon get a grasp upon it?

Most of the practical proposals seem to me to be sensible enough. One class throughout; some streaming into broad divisions; proper training at all levels in relation to the work to be done; more "in and out" movement in the matter of appointments—although I am not quite certain that those whose qualities have been largely those of judgment and discretion are going to be warmly welcomed in their later years into businesses that depend entirely on dynamism and movement and action. I am not sure whether you can shift off all our slightly maturing civil servants on to industry and business quite as easily as that.

No doubt, however, these changes will help to improve morale and to increase efficiency. But some of the underlying concepts in the letterpress of the Report, the idea that the typical civil servant of high grade is less discerning, able, hardworking than his counterpart in business and industry, the idea that a general education of high quality is of less importance than technical equipment for specific tasks, the idea that management of those below is to be developed at the expense of responsible service to those above—all this I think is very open to question.

Before closing, I should like to pay a brief tribute to one section of the Civil Service with which the Churches are brought into constant touch, and that is the Registrar-General's department. All clergy have to make regular returns to this department in the matter of the weddings celebrated in their churches, and I am quite certain that all of them would agree that the standard of courtesy, understanding and consideration that they receive from this particular department is beyond praise, and I think that may be typical of many other departments that get rather a hard deal in the letterpress of this Report.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I ask for the indulgence your Lordships give to those who speak for the first time, and I also trust that your Lordships will be tolerant if I, through the exceptional closeness which I had to the problems which we are discussing, speak on any point with more warmth than is altogether fitting in a maiden speech. During the five years in which I was head of the Service I not only worked on these problems, I lived with them at very close quarters indeed.

I would first pay my tribute to the efforts of the Fulton Committee. The five volumes of their Report already published, with the sixth still to come, are an eloquent monument to their industry; but they are not publishing oral evidence, and perhaps I know almost better than anyone outside the Committee how much patient hearing and how much painstaking discussion went into the formulation of their recommendations. Although in my later remarks I shall be a little critical of the Report, I think their recommendations succeed in laying down guidelines for the Service for development over the next few years which are of great importance. So I think we are indeed indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and his colleagues.

My Lords, there is a healthy tradition that the Civil Service comes under the eye of either a Royal Commission or a high-powered Committee on the average once in a generation. The Committee whose Report we are considering is the sixth in the 115 years since the Northcote-Trevelyan Report. It belongs therefore to a very distinguished camp. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report itself marked the beginning of the Civil Service as we know it, because it did away with jobbery and substituted recruitment on merit based on the recruits' written academic examination. There was a big assumption that written examinations would provide results which could be fairly taken into account in measuring administrative potential, but in fact it worked pretty well down the years. People who came top of the examination list, like the great Lord Waverley who has been mentioned already this afternoon, did make their mark when they got into the Service.

But over twenty years ago that dependence on the written examination was set aside and there was introduced an alternative method designed to provide a direct appraisal of administrative potential. This was a bold and, in its day, almost revolutionary change, but none the less it has worked. The evidence that the test provides the right results is convincing. In this change, and in many others, we have moved a very long way since the Northcote-Trevelyan Report. I am bound to say I think it is a pity that the Fulton Committee chose to lay so much emphasis on Northcote- Trevelyan and in so doing to belittle all that has happened in the development of the Civil Service in this century, and especially in the last twenty-five years. They stress too much the historical significance of what they themselves had to say, in the context of the past century.

I would glance briefly at what has happened in the last 25 years. At the outbreak of war all recruitment to the Service ceased, as indeed it had done once before in this century during the period immediately following the economic crisis of 1930–31; but with the end of regular recruitment there came instead a great surge of temporary recruitment to the Service by which it was immensely strengthened and invigorated. Wise and able men came in from industry and from the universities. Some of them are now Members of your Lordships' House, and I am particularly glad that we are to hear this afternoon from the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, who is the most senior, perhaps, of that great company. With the end of the war, these men began to go back to their own fields. Fortunately for the Service, there were a few oustanding men who stayed for a few years, like the noble Lords. Lord Robbins and Lord Plowden; and there were some others, mostly junior men, who worked as temporaries during the war in more humble positions and who chose to throw in their lot with the Service on a regular basis.

The effects of this pretty radical invasion of the Civil Service from outside were, I think, lasting and beneficial. One effect has been to create an understanding and mutual respect between the Civil Service and those whose work lies in quite different fields. I do not think that any of us who came into the Civil Service as temporaries in those war days found the Administrative Class exclusive, and not for a moment did we think it amateur. I myself had for some years been teaching economics in two universities, and in that sense I first came into the Service as a professional; but I soon realised that the administrators were professionals in a far more demanding way, and I was glad, as others were, to learn my trade as a professional in the business of government. I think we often forget in this country that we have the most highly-developed system of government in the world. One is tempted to think that the principles of Parliamentary government are basically simple. I suppose they are, but when it comes to working them out as we have done in this country down the years, they become a highly-developed, highly-sophisticated machine which needs true professionalism if it is to be worked to the best advantage.

Looking back, I well remember the great ability, the clear vision, of the senior civil servants of those war-time days, and what stands out most vividly in my memory is their prodigious capacity for hard work. They were men to whom the phrase "working oneself to death" was not just a form of words but a very likely risk, and all of us remember that far too few of those who retired in the years not long after the end of the war lived to enjoy their retirement for very long. I think many Members of this House must have known some of them and remember them, as I do, with respect and admiration.

It was not a narrowly based profession, either. During my time in the Service I knew three heads of great Departments who had started their service at the age of 16. They were most able men, held in the greatest respect, and rightly so. Even later, when I was Head of the Service, there were at one time four heads of major Departments who had started in other parts of the Service, as well as four or five ex-temporary civil servants like myself. None of these things is the mark of the kind of exclusive society that is sometimes depicted.

While all these changes were going on the educational system was beginning to change in the post-war world, more slowly perhaps than the new work for the Service was building up, taking them out into the fields of innovation in the national life which had been unknown and unthought of before the war. It is only recently, however, that it has become clear that the structure of the Civil Service is no longer linked satisfactorily to the educational pattern. In the old days it made sense to recruit only a few of the best university graduates and then go for the best of the grammar school leavers. It was better to do that than to try to take in more university graduates. But it is clear now that for the future the best of these young people will go to the universities, and the Civil Service must recruit more of them as graduates, and on a broader basis. But it would have been a rash man who reached that conclusion as a firm basis for action before the Robbins Report within the last five years.

My purpose in this quite cursory glance at what has been happening in the last twenty years or so, is to show that it is there that we must look for the problems of the Service as it is to-day, not in the 19th century. The problems have grown up since the war, as the nature of the work changed out of all recognition and as the educational system began to change also. None the less, as I have said, the main recommendations of the Report are eminently sound and practical, and I am glad that they will be carried out. More training, more scope for specialists, more insistence on the new techniques of quantitative analysis which have been developed in recent years inside the Civil Service as well as outside, are all clearly required. I am glad, however, that the Committee were favourably impressed by the amount of training that already goes on in the Civil Service, because it has indeed been greatly built up, not least in the last five years' since the Centre for Administrative Studies was opened.

The Committee are also right to press that more resources should be devoted to personnel management, including career planning, which has certainly suffered from the priority that must always, in a time of scarce resources, go to operational work. I am afraid that with the best will in the world it is not going to be easy to give as much priority as the Government would perhaps like to personnel work in the coming years. Of the criticisms of the Committee on Civil Service management, especially personnel management, and on what the noble Baroness said about moving people around at high level in the Service, I would only say that I think that not much distinction has been drawn between the things done of set purpose, deliberately and as part of policy, and things which have been done on the principle that "needs must when the Devil drives". The Civil Service has been driven hard in recent years. All these developments will require additional resources, and I am glad that the Government, in willing the end appear to be ready to provide the means as soon as they can.

There are just two further recommendations of the Committee to which I would refer briefly. First, there is the creation of the new Civil Service Department. I think that this strengthening of the central management of the Service is desirable. Whether it is necessary to do this through an entirely new Department is a matter of judgment. The Treasury is not a Department which enjoys the brightest of public images, and it may be that there is advantage in creating a Department which would carry, or which one would hope would carry, with it much more good will. But let us not be under any illusions. The change will not, in itself, work any wonders at all.

Secondly, the Committee recommended the total abolition of classes. This is one of the recommendations which, as has already been said, hit the headlines. The Civil Service itself had proposed the abolition of the administrative class through merging with the executive class, primarily for the educational reasons which I have mentioned. The Service had also proposed that the distinction between the classes should disappear in the area towards the top of the Service, where managerial responsibility is predominant and the exercise of specialist skills is of less importance. But this was not enough for the Committee. They felt that all classes should go, and I think perhaps they are right in terms, because the fact is that class has become a highly dangerous word, with emotional undertones or overtones that are best avoided in these days.

The fact remains, my Lords, that the modern Civil Service contains, and must contain, representatives of practically all the specialist skills that exist in the country, and representatives, too, of the few specialist skills of its own—tax inspectors and the like who do not exist in the outside world. The Committee recognise that these people will form distinctive occupational groups, and I think that this is the reality of the situation. But it is no good thinking that they can all be pushed together. Your doctor, your lawyer or your scientist may well wish to gravitate towards administration as he rises in the Service, but is not likely to want to acquire the qualifications to enter one of the other specialist disciplines. Still less is he likely to want to enter one of the many departmental specialisms—for instance, to become an agricultural adviser. I do not think he is going to be grateful for saying that he has got the chance of doing that. All he wants is the chance of being considered for advancement in the higher managerial field as he makes his way up.

To give more substance to the abolition of classes the Committee propose the adoption of the American Civil Service system of having a score of grades into which every civil servant would be put. I am very doubtful about this. It would be a pay structure only, as the Committee admit; it would not serve for recruitment purposes, and it would not serve for training purposes. As to pay, the Priestley Commission set out the principles for settling Civil Service pay which the Committee say should be retained, and I am sure they are right about that. So that the new structure is not strictly essential for settling pay, and I doubt whether it fits very well with the way in which the modern world is developing. On the whole, the tendency is for people to pay more attention nowadays to specialist skills than of old, and to say that the scientist is to acquire the label "Civil servant grade 10", or whatever it is, along with lawyer, doctor, psychologist, agricultural adviser, and a host of others, seems to me to be ignoring differences which might be greatly valued by the people concerned in this modern world.

The Committee also lay a good deal of stress on the technique known as "job evaluation" as a method of settling pay. I will only say of this, my Lords, that "job evaluation" is a technique that was first developed for settling pay on the factory floor, and many very experienced managers have grave doubts about the currently fashionable thesis that it is universally applicable. I hope that the suggestion that it should be applied universally to the Service will be examined very carefully.

My Lords, this is a Report that contains many admirable recommendations which, as I have said, will enable the Service to develop usefully in coming years, but it is not a radical or a revolutionary Report. The matters on which I have ventured to express differences from the views of the Committee are not fundamental or of basic significance. I could have wished, indeed, that these matters had not been thrust into quite the prominence that they have received. As it seems to me, the paramount need in the Civil Service must surely be to continue to attract its proper share of the very ablest young people in the country, and some older ones as well. There is no satisfactory measure of the expansion of Government activity, but we all know that it is going on year by year whichever Party is in power, and there is no sign of any reversal of the trend. Public expenditure is the best crude indicator we have of this sort of development, and public expenditure now represents only just less than half of the total national income, having risen just about as fast in the years of Conservative rule as it has in more recent years. It would surely be a sad outlook if the Civil Service that has to administer this system did not get men, and women too, of really outstanding ability, integrity of mind, clearness of vision, and sound judgment. Let them have technical competence, too, but if the people are able enough they can be given their technical competence afterwards if need be. It is surely not necessary for the young to learn all they are going to learn in life before the age of 21, 22, or whatever it may be. Technical competence is no substitute for true outstanding ability.

The Fulton Committee expressed no serious anxiety about the power of the Civil Service to continue to attract its share of really able people. The record since the war is not entirely encouraging. Industry has been taking more graduates for non-specialist work; we have been up against competition in almost every direction. Perhaps the most severe and the most hardly felt competition has come from the universities themselves where many able men have become Dons as the universities expanded who might have made most valuable civil servants. Competition for the most able people is going to remain fierce, and this surely is the fundamental problem to which we must address our minds.

The Committee spoke, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has spoken, of the merits of the French Civil Service, which are indeed impressive despite the fact that the system transgresses principles which in this country are of great importance. The secret in France is undoubtedly that the Service attracts the very best of the young people. This is the answer. You must get really good recruits if the Service is to prosper.

My Lords, some of the disadvantages of being a civil servant, and especially a senior civil servant, have, it seems to me, become more apparent in recent years than used to be the case. I am not thinking only of the unrelenting pressure of grinding hard work, though that is an outstanding feature. Probably there is no escape. There is certainly no easy escape from that. I, myself, share the doubts that have been expressed by noble Lords about the proposal to ease the burden of the Permanent Secretary by appointing a senior policy adviser. The fact is that there can be only one head of an organisation, and the Committee are very right to recognise that that must be the Permanent Secretary.

Early retirement may provide part of the answer, but only, I suggest, if it is possible to devise a system under which able and senior men may move out as part of a regular career pattern into other parts of the public sector. It is not enough to depend on their moving out into the private sector. I think they would be accepted there, but in these days when the intervention of Government in business and industry in almost every part of the field is so widespread I do not think we can accept as a regular thing a pattern of career that leaves our most senior civil servants seeking employment in the private sector before retirement. At any rate there are dangers about that, and the integrity of the Service must be preserved. I think that there may be possibilities in the public sector, and I am not at all sure that we have not been wrong in thinking that the nationalised industries, the many boards and commissions that have been set up since the war, are not fields to which civil servants could bring great gain.

The core of the problem of maintaining recruitment to the Service surely lies in the public attitude to the Service. I would not for a moment suggest that the Civil Service should not be criticised. Clearly it will always be criticised, and sometimes severely criticised, by people who do not think very much about the requirements of Government. The man in the street under modern conditions is bound to be a critic of the Civil Service. Although he wants to have a National Health Service, a national pensions service and a system for spreading employment around the regions, he does not like the kind of inquiry into his private and family affairs that is inseparable from operating those bureaucratic arrangements. The popular Press tends to express the opinion of the man in the street. Moreover, there will always be a certain amount of informed criticism of the Civil Service, partly because it deserves it, and partly because we have built into the governmental system, and are now expanding, machinery which exists precisely for criticising the Service. Our new specialist Parliamentary Committee—the new Select Committees—will in nearly all their reports say, not that this is a splendid body of men doing a splendid job, but that this or that or the other could be done better if only they would set about it differently. There will be a steady flow of criticism in this way and it is not unhealthy. But no organisation can live on a steady diet of nothing but criticism and denigration. If we are to hope for a better Civil Service evolving out of the changes which we now contemplate, surely we have to make it clear that the present Service is, at least potentially, really first-class, and make people understand that it is a first-class service which we want in the country and which we believe we can have.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, it is a special pleasure to me to express congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, since I once had the pleasure and honour of being one of his colleagues. I think your Lordships will agree that the two magisterial maiden speeches from two eminent civil servants make one somewhat amused by the word "amateur", but I shall have a few brisk observations about that later.

We all agree that the Fulton Report is an important State document; that is common ground. I have been struck, as I am sure have most of your Lordships, by the general agreement, on both sides of the House and on no side of the House (meaning our independent Lordships behind me), that much of what has been said is good and useful; that some of it is wrong and a certain amount silly. But in my view the nice things one can say about this Report very substantially outweigh the nasty ones.

It seems to me that in the long run this is going to be important. Much of what the Report has said has been going through the air of the Civil Service itself for years. The noble Lord, Lord Helsby, and I, ten or twelve years ago—in fact more years ago than that—were agitating for adequate recognition for scientists of ability so as to enable them to move more quickly into the administrative class, and so on. There is nothing new in this; it has been canvassed almost since the war. Some of these initiatives died away owing to a rigidity which, it seemed to some of us, came into the Civil Service in the early 1950s. After the extreme fluidity of the war, about which Lord Helsby has spoken, the Civil Service took upon itself some seven or eight years later a more rigid form.

In the war the Civil Service was absolutely at its best. I do not believe that any Civil Service of any country was anything like as competent as our Civil Service at its expanded, fluid, emancipated best. The good things in the Fulton Report seem to me to show an inclination, a desire, to get back to some of that fluidity which the war taught us. Much of this has already been discussed, and I will not weary your Lordships by going over it. But there are many good things. The sensible use of temporary civil servants, which was extraordinarily valuable in the war, could certainly be accommodated in peace. I have a good deal more faith than noble Lords who have spoken in the use of planning officers, even though the administrative structure is difficult to get right. On the whole I am convinced that the broad structure of the so-called classless system is probably the shape which the Civil Service will have to take; although, as we have been reminded, the classlessness will always be a great deal more apparent than real.

We agree that this is an important State document. So was the Northcote-Trevelyan Report, to which in tenor the Fulton Report bears a certain resemblance. One will remain as a document expressing the contemporary 19th-century view of the Civil Service, and the other will express a 20th-century view of the Civil Service. Both Reports show foresight and wisdom, and both express a good many conventional stereotypes. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report is full of the concept, which was very dear to 19th century England, that all civil servants were entirely idle. You will find this is fiction; you will also find it in journalistic work. This comes in strongly in the Northcote-Trevelyan Report. The contemporary stereotype is the very unhappy one that the Civil Service is composed of amateurs. I much regret that this absurd stereotype was not criticised out of existence during the process of drafting. Nothing could be more ridiculous. If these are amateurs, who are professionals?

I can only think that this Committee, who have done a real public service, were hypnotised by two facts. One is that civil servants on the whole have good manners; and good manners, in modern conditions, tend to suggest a certain disinclination to get on with the rough, tough work of life. The second is that they do not write jargon. The writing of jargon has unfortunately got inseparably connected with the concept of professionalism. If they used more noun-adjectives, great lumping phrases, I am sure that it would be thought: "These chaps know their jobs because I, for one, cannot understand what they say." They constantly use the word "expertise". I get a certain sardonic amusement in reading through the Report, which scolds civil servants for not knowing foreign languages, to find them using this wretched word in a sense known only to the English. Possibly if our civil servants misused foreign languages with the same facility and confidence, we should think rather more highly of them.

Nevertheless, we have to think of another example of a conventional stereotype coming into action, and the example that comes closest home to me is the observations of the Fulton Report on methods of selection. It does not matter very much if the Civil Service is abused, except to the extent that the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, said that this is undoubtedly discouraging the brightest characters from going into it. But the Civil Service has lived through much. It has lived through a bad Press for 150 years, and it can go on living through another bad Press for another 150 years. That is not very serious. What seems to me much more serious is this ludicrous concept of the relevant subjects. What are relevant subjects? Do your Lordships believe that any young man at 18 ought to be studying entirely that which is going to be all his professional life?

I cannot understand how a man as wise as the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, has forgotten the old academic distinction between "hard" subjects and "soft" ones; how some of our ablest youths and girls know that if they do not do "hard" subjects in their teens and early twenties they will never do them at all. "Hard" subjects, I may remind your Lordships, are defined precisely like that—as subjects which, if you do not do them by the end of your undergraduate days, you will never do. I am thinking of mathematics, classics, difficult foreign languages, exact sciences and so on. These you will never do, unless you have done them in your undergraduate days.

Having done them, if you are intellectually competent and if you have an interest, you can then learn almost anything else fairly quickly. I would bet that anyone who had a good English degree—our standards are high in any of those hard subjects which I ripped off a moment ago—could go through one of the two courses in these great French training schools for civil servants and do extremely successfully—and a good many of the people I am thinking of could do both. I beg the Government to take this particular conventional stereotype with as many grains of salt as they can possibly manage. If they do not, it is something to which we shall have to return, because it would be very easy to take the real bone and fibre out of English education within twenty years.

In rather the same sense, I have one more serious criticism. It is about the disquisitions on the methods of selection. This is a terribly difficult problem upon which a good many people have spent twenty years and come to no sort of sensible answers. But we know at least some of the difficulties. The Committee appear to have taken this with the bland confidence which in others they would regard as a manifestation of amateurism. For example, they talk about the method of extended interview, which the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, reminded the House was brought into the Civil Service twenty years ago. Everyone agrees that this is a perfectly sensible way of choosing. But it has a real defect, of which those of us who were anywhere near to it were only too conscious. It is a method of eliminating risks. Almost everyone selected by this method can be regarded as a probable success up to a certain point. The wastage is very small. On the other hand, when you are eliminating risks by this kind of extended interview you have an unhappy knack of eliminating persons who are odd, but very valuable. Indeed, one of the activities, and, indeed, almost the only activity of the final selection board on the rare occasions I sat upon it, was to try and check the extended interview in precisely that sense.

I can think of two noble Lords in this House—this was before the time of the noble Lord, Lord Helsby—who, in fact, were regarded with the utmost suspicion by the method of extended interview and we had to take very rough steps to reverse the judgment. Both of them have sat on Front Benches, one on each side of this House, and it is reasonable to say that if they had persisted in their Civil Service careers they would have been real "fliers".

The problem of allowing for oddity is one of the hardest of all these selective problems. None of us knows the answers, but at least we know what the question is, and we know that the methods which I think the majority of the Committee suggested—the first method being open only to relevant subject takers and the second method being without any check of the final selection board—will very quickly produce a Service which is perfectly competent, but without any great proportion of the real "fliers" or oddities which any organised institution must have.

Finally, I think that in the view of most of us it is desirable that the Civil Service should attract a certain amount of really high ability. In the 'twenties and 'thirties that was very easy. There were not very many jobs of comparable attraction for people of really high competence who did not have a particularly marked specific creative gift. That was the field from which the Civil Service was traditionally recruited. Now there are many opportunities for such persons.

Industry has realised—and this is a good thing—that they need such persons, too. We shall gain by this insight and realisation. And there are the fields of public communications, which are mak- ing great raids upon some of our highly able young. But nevertheless it remains true that a really high class public service such as we must have needs its proportion of our most competent young men. The indications are that that process is not really happening, or, at least, the proportion of the really good entering the Civil Service is getting rather less. My fear is that all that we are talking about is going to make the Service rather less attractive—although not dramatically less—to the very small proportion of "high fliers" than it is at present.

The Committee themselves seemed to me in some dubiety on this point. They talked with admiration—and I am glad they talked of them—of the French and Swedish systems. They talked of the French system with admiration for the elite that it attracts. Of course it attracts them, simply because it is an elite system—with absolutely no shame and no holds barred. I am afraid that we tend to get into the position in this country where we admire elite-ism so long as we do not apply it ourselves. It may be necessary, if we are to get this injection of really first-rate talent, to have some small enclave where the general squashing down process, which much of our efforts are going into, has in fact been temporarily—just for these exceptions—removed.

With that said, I believe that the Report genuinely shows the way in which the public service is going. I wish that its asperities had been somewhat different. If I had been the noble Lord, Lord Simey, I would have signed with him or possibly have written a rather sharper note myself. But for its general guidance, for its imagination, for its feeling that we have to manage our affairs with more energy and more foresight than we have done, then I for one am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and his colleagues.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, I know your Lordships are always generous to the maiden speaker, but I think I have special reason to claim your Lordships' indulgence this afternoon. First, a very high standard has been set me by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and the noble Lord, Lord Helsby—and if it is not impertinent I should like to add my congratulations to those that other Members have paid them. Secondly, this is the first time in my life that I have ever tried to make a political speech or, indeed, to take part in a debate. Finally, we are debating, and have been all the afternoon, in the white-hot light of a Report which swingeingly castigates the amateur. For all those reasons, I ask your Lordships' indulgence.

I must also declare one or two interests. I have a strong personal interest in the success of such inquiries as that of the Fulton Committee because, with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, I am at the moment involved in one of them, seeking, by the same technique or something like it, to see whether English local government could not become even more efficient and more democratic than it is to-day. I know that some people think that this kind of inquiry is just a relic of the Victorian age and quite unfitted to the white-hot, technological 20th century in which we live. Indeed, if it is true, as the Fulton Committee here and there seem to think, that only professionals with technocratic or sociological training are competent to deal with public affairs, it does seem a bit odd to ask a mixed bunch of people, mainly amateurs, to conduct an authoritative critique of one of our great political institutions. But I personally believe in this technique, as indeed I must so long as I am involved in my local government job. I believe in it, and I am all against looking gift amateurs, any more than gift horses, in the mouth. I should like, if I may, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, my congratulation being not untinged with a certain sense of envy, on the success, and the swiftness of the success, which has followed the publishing of his Report.

This brings me to the next personal interest I must declare, which is that the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and most of his colleagues are my personal friends—or at least they were until this afternoon. Finally, I must admit to being thoroughly and strongly prejudiced in favour of the Civil Service. If I might explain to your Lordships, I have this admiration as one who came as an interloper, an uitlander, a rank amateur, into the profession of the British Civil Service. And, to be quite serious, do not let anybody pretend that this is not a great profession, whatever it may be fashionable to call it. I came in and was a temporary "hack" in various parts of Whitehall for a number of years; I observed the regular Civil Service at work—and, my word, they struck me as a wonderful set of people! Able, of course; disinterested; with fire in many of their bellies; many of them imaginative, dynamic and creative; all of them humane and honourable.

Some of them, of course, were, and no doubt still are, promotion-hunters, as you find in any profession, even in the universities. But I have never met a set of men and women more committed to the view that what really matters is that people should be served and the job in hand well done, and that what does not matter is that you should get personal credit for your part in the success This is a tribute which, as an outsider, I wish seriously to pay to the people I knew in those days.

I wish, and I wish profoundly, that the Fulton Committee had paid their tribute more convincingly. The tribute they paid is scattered up and down the Report, and in the last paragraph of all they refer to the Service having members with the "ability, vision and enthusiasm" to carry out the changes which the Committee recommended. Too little, and too late, in my opinion. It was high time, and it is high time, for an authoritative repudiation of the scurrilous things that were said in published evidence to the Committee; for example, about the alleged sabotage of ministerial policies by senior civil servants.

Your Lordships remember what Shylock said about the Jews: If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? … and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? Civil servants are as human as anyone. So, if you prick them they bleed, and if you tickle them they laugh. But they are in one sense unique: that if you wrong them they will not revenge. I am therefore very glad that this debate will, before it is finished, leave the Service and the country in no doubt of our awareness of the debt we owe to the half a million men and women who work for us as civil servants, and not least to that small bunch of 3,000 members of the administrative class from whom, as the Committee says, the leadership at present comes, and has come since the war.

It was ten years ago that I left Whitehall, and, like all institutions which I have served and left, the Civil Service has enormously improved since I ceased to have anything to do with it. The noble Lord, Lord Helsby, referred to the new training arrangements in the administrative centre—and that is only one of the things to which we could pay tribute that have happened during the time that the noble Lord was himself Head of the Service, and during the great period when the late Lord Normanbrook and, before him, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, were in that position. There has been tremendous improvement; and, of course no-one is more convinced that there should still be more improvement, and more drastic improvement, in the years to come than the Civil Service itself. I think that much of the Report will be of the greatest help to the Civil Service and to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in settting forward this great institution of ours to still greater efficiency and effectiveness.

I disagree, if I may, with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about the Civil Service College. Of course it would be disastrous if it took on the whole job, but there is clearly no intention of that, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, pointed out. Provided that every possible use is made of the business schools of administration and the universities, I still think there is need for, and that it is high time we had, a first-class, top-grade College—I do not myself mind calling it a "College", which seems to me not necessarily a pejorative word—where the essential training and research job will be done that cannot be done elsewhere. It will do that essential job only if it substantially abbreviates what seems to me the very long shopping list given it by the Fulton Committee.

I think the Civil Service Department will help, too. However well the Treasury have struggled, I am sure it is right that, in the light of experience and of what the Report says, we should try the experiment of a central Civil Service Department under the Prime Minister, separate from the Treasury, though I am prepared to bet that ten years from now we shall revert to something of the sort we had in times gone by. But I am convinced that there are several things in the Report which we should reject and which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will reject. Most of them have been referred to. The idea of hiving-off responsibility for long-term planning, to someone other than the man who is supposed to be in charge of the Department under the Minister, seems to fly in the face of all the excellent advice from the management consultants which is in the second volume of the Report—and to be definitely stupid. Again at a time when we are not getting enough first-rate applicants for the Civil Service or enough first-rate ability in spite of the big increase in the university population, it seems crazy to confine our choice to people who happen to have done this or that work at the university.

The other thing which I hope very much that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will not accept, except after great thought, is the idea in the Report that not only should there be annual Reports on how the Civil Service is getting on—which I think is excellent and to which I think we are all entitled—but also that in five years there should be another inquiry. Rather let us trust Sir William Armstrong and his colleagues in the Civil Service under Lord Shackleton and the Prime Minister, to "do it themselves".

Finally, my Lords, may I say how right I think it is that in the Civil Service we should seek to learn from every outside experience that seems relevant? Let us learn what we can from abroad; let us learn from business organisation; let us learn from management consultants. But let us remember that the Service is, and must remain, unique because it is and must be part and parcel of our peculiar British way of life. In particular, it must fit our faith in the responsibility of Ministers to Parliament and, through Parliament, to us all; and it must fit our faith in the unique capacity of British permanent civil servants, without sacrifice of personal conviction, imagination or creative energy, to serve with equal loyalty Governments of all political convictions and to deserve equally the trust of Ministers of every Party.

6.4 p.m.


My Lords, it is a peculiar privilege and pleasure to me to be the first to voice a sentiment which I am sure we all feel and to express to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, our warmest congratulations on a maiden speech which has been a joy to listen to. I know that we all hope that we shall have the pleasure of hearing him on many subjects often in the future. May I also take the opportunity to add my tribute to those paid to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and to the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, for their maiden speeches which gave us all such great pleasure. I think the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and his colleagues must be very happy to think that the publication of their Report has evoked three maiden speeches of such rare distinction as we have heard to-day.

My Lords, I speak in this debate against a background of experience within the Civil Service as a temporary civil servant and from outside through industrial contacts and through such "dialogues"—to use the term currently in fashion—as one has with Government Departments when one is active in an organisation such as the Confederation of British Industry. In the First World War after a recovery (more or less) from Gallipoli, I was seconded to the Ministry of Munitions, first at Woolwich Arsenal and then in London, and served in that Department for something over three years. Throughout the Second World War, I was again a temporary civil servant and in that capacity I had contacts with many Departments.

In the light of that experience, when I read the first summaries and Press comments on the Fulton Report I confess I did not look forward to reading it. I felt that the criticisms of the past and present were likely to be too harsh and that the changes for the future would be, to my way of thinking, too revolutionary. However, when I read the Report, I confess that in some respects at any rate my views were modified. I should like sincerely to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and his colleagues for the immense care with which they have surveyed this field; and for their courage—because for me, at any rate, I think it would have taken a great deal of courage—in their tackling the fences that were inherent in this problem and to erect some others that they had the imagination to grasp. I think they have produced a coherent plan, or plotted a course, for the next 20 years which can be of great value.

My Lords, I need hardly say that in the course of my experience I formed a view of the Civil Service, and of the civil servants at the head of it, that is in every way as favourable as the views that have been expressed on that same subject to-day. I will not repeat them except to say that I came to admire greatly their outstanding ability, their great integrity and disinterestedness and—a word I think not used to-day—their dedication to public service. I am proud to think that I number many of them among my best friends.

My Lords, I feel that I should like to comment, but only briefly, on one or two points in the Report. My first is that personally I should be in favour of the abolition of the classes and of their replacement by a single unified grading structure for the non-industrial part of the Service. The élite which was in the past drawn in the main from the administrative class would still come to the top, and perhaps there would be among them a few more who were essentially specialists originally rather than generalists, and I think that will be to the good.

Secondly, my Lords (although I am merely labouring a point which has already been clearly established), I found the argument for the new Civil Service Department, so-called, convincing and I am glad to know that steps are being taken, with the full support of Sir William Armstrong, towards setting up that Department. I share the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on the desirability of keeping this Department small, and avoiding a too large expansion of staff. My third point is somewhat related to this new Department (for which I hope that the Civil Service will succeed in finding a different title than "Civil Service Department"). The related point is that I would put in a plea for what is called in the Report "accountable management", which they define as: holding individuals and units as responsible for performance measured as objectively as possible. Though I believe there have been considerable developments in the O. and M. Section since my day—in fact I know that there have been—I would judge that there is scope for some action along the lines indicated, involving as it would in selected and appropriate cases—and I should like to underline that—examination by outside bodies expert in management consultancy. I know that temporarily this could be an upsetting experience, but many industries have found that it pays and I see no reason whatever to doubt that, in appropriate cases, the Civil Service also will find that it pays.

My fourth point, my Lords, concerns the overall direction of Departments. I, too, have grave doubts about the wisdom of the recommendations to have: in most Departments a senior policy adviser with direct access to the Minister. This conception seems somewhat reminiscent of the techniques of the "Chief Executive", so-called, in the last war, although the functions are rather different. Long-term planning, in the sense in which the term is used in the Report, was a luxury in which, at least in my experience, Chief Executives had little opportunity to indulge. But an arrangement such as is proposed by the Committee can, of course, be made to work, if there is no clash of personalities, and if indeed there is complete compatibility of temperament. But, in principle, I am quite sure that there must be one permanent Head of the Department, and if he has not the capacity to delegate, he will not hold his position for very long.

The long-term plan, for which there is much to be said, must surely be a function exercised immediately under the Permanent Head of the Department and through him, but not independently alongside him. That brings me, my Lords, to my last point. I believe that there may be many of your Lordships (and not only those who were here until a late hour last night on the Committee stage of the Transport Bill!) who feel that we are suffering to-day from a surfeit of new legislation, much of it pretty indigestible. As things have developed in recent years I believe that the lines of departmental responsibility have tended to overlap more and more, and more and more departmental and inter-departmental committees are required. The machinery of Government has become clogged and requires overall modification and simplification, or so at least I believe.

This aspect of the situation is touched on by the Committee in paragraph 293 of the Report where they suggest that if the review of the hiving-off possibilities, which they suggest in chapter V, should result in recommendations for substantial changes, this would also provide for simultaneous consideration to be given to a general review of the machinery of government. I feel, my Lords, that possibly because the machinery of government was regarded as being outside their terms of reference, the Committee here have got their priorities wrong. I believe that there is a case now for a small high-powered Committee to undertake a review of the machinery of Government. It is 50 years since the Haldane Committee reported. That Committee was seven in number. Its terms of reference were: To inquire into the responsibilities of the various Departments of the Central Executive Government and to advise in what manner the exercise and distribution of its functions should be improved. My Lords, much of the work of the Fulton Committee and the evidence submitted to it would seem to be relevant and to facilitate the work of another Haldane Committee; or of a working party such as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I hope that consideration may be given to setting up some such body very soon.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, in his charming speech the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, let slip one phrase which is sometimes used in an apartheid sense. He said that a number of them—he was referring to civil servants— "are among my best friends". I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow one to marry his daughter. I married a civil servant myself and I can assure him that it is all right. They are not a separate breed. They are—well, any service which could admit the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, the Earl of Arran and myself during war-time must be—pretty broad minded.

The noble Lord, Lord Snow, spoke of élite-ism and we have had in three magnificent maiden speeches a perfect example of Civil Service élite-ism at its very best. This is what it is all about, I think: how to get such people into the Civil Service and keep them there. Because if one is running a business or any concern, nothing matters more than having absolutely outstanding people at the top. My noble friend Lord Shackleton said that he hoped he would not degenerate (I think that was the word) into the chief personnel manager of the Civil Service. I sincerely hope that he does not. I have had a good deal of experience of personnel managers in industry, and as a rule it is a fairly second-rate job. There are a few personnel managers who exercise a powerful and valuable function in their concerns, but, taken by and large, personnel management is the relatively unimportant physical function of dealing with P.A.Y.E., National Insurance, cleanliness of offices, charladies, et cetera.

The really important function in industry is the selection of personnel, and very few industries leave this to their personnel managers. And this is very sensible, because if they do they find that these people are not skilled in the particular fields in which selections have to be made. A glass manufacturer selecting a general manager may have his personnel manager with him, but he will be more concerned with the person's technique of glass manufacture and, indeed, his demonstrated capacity for management than in the opinion of his personnel manager, who will usually be a generalist of a very general kind.

Having listened to the criticism of poor Lord Fulton's Report, I do not think there is a great deal left of it. I must say that I rather agree with my noble friend Lord Snow that it is a fashionable Report. It deals in conventional stereotypes, and that is a very bad thing to do. It is a fault that one can easily fall into, and I fear the noble Lord's Committee fell into it. I am quite sure that management is not a skill in the same sense as medicine, statistics or the law are skills. Management is something which one acquires by doing it; by being exposed to a wide variety of experience; by being bashed about; by having a hard time, and sometimes a little easier time. But, above all, in order to do it well one must have immense energy, immense determination, and a reasonably high (and hopefully a very high) I.Q. These are the things that one needs to be a good manager. Given these things, I think one can become a good managing director or a good high civil servant. And the things that are to be taught in courses are very simple indeed; in fact, I think they are rudimentary.

The things to look for in a good manager, whether he be a manager or a high civil servant, are quite simple things. First, there is the capacity to pick out key facts from a vast volume of material. I wish that my noble friend Lord Shackleton were here, because I felt that his brief was an admirable example of a failure to pick out any key facts at all. I am sorry to be saying this in his absence, but it was a simply shocking brief, and I only hope that Sir William Armstrong was not responsible for it. It was one of those things where everything is balanced against everything else and every subordinate clause was put in, and so you are never committed to anything. Perhaps, in the long run, it is the best thing.

The next one is the capacity to express oneself in a minimum of words. How well our maiden speakers taught us our job there; and how well I was taught my job in a minimum of words, when I was a member of a Development Corporation and the noble Lady was secretary. Just on this business of words, I agree with my noble friend Lord Snow about the quality of the Civil Service in war time. I think the quality of Cabinet Papers was never higher than it was in war time and immediately afterwards. I think from what I see of it, sitting here, it is pretty awful now. It has gone to pieces, and I do not know why. I should say it is fatigue and poor editorial work; people having to churn out papers far too quickly. The otiosity and verbosity has been appalling. It is very bad, and it must be pulled up. Our Civil Service friends ought to have a good look at their editorial systems and their capacity to express themselves in a minimum of words. It is far harder to do that, of course, than to make a speech like that of my noble friend Lord Shackleton. My noble friend has just come in, and perhaps I nay say that I have been criticising his speech. I am sure he will not mind.

The next thing is capacity to communicate with those above and below. Here comes the question of morale. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe-Maud, said about morale. The way people keep on "knocking" the Civil Service is terrible; it is enough to knock the stuffing out of anyone. Yet part of the bad morale is internal, and a failure of people to know those who are in charge of them in the Civil Service. Everybody in the Ministry, in my opinion, should at least know what the Permanent Secretary looks like, and recognise him, and hopefully and politely salute him when they see him in the corridor. This matters a great deal. It certainly matters in the university. It matters that people should know who is in charge, that there should be a good, free, open communication, and that he should be accessible. He cannot be accessible if he has too much to do.

Then there is the capacity to assess human beings quickly, but also to revise these opinions. Well, that is obvious, though, of course, it is—I will not say less important in the Civil Service, but the selection one has is limited: establishment so often sends the person one has to have, or the person faute de mieux. It is very important to be able to assess people quickly but also, having made quick decisions, to revise them, if necessary.

Then there is the capacity to reprove and reprimand when needed, though this is rarely needed, and very rarely does any good when it is done. Next we have capacity to praise good work. This I have found rare in the Civil Service, and it is a pity. Partly, again, it springs from busy-ness. I think it would be a good thing if seniors did more praising of juniors when they do good work. It is the way to go on getting good things out of people. It is a tedious job, but one has to do it.

Then there is the capacity to delegate—that is obvious—and the capacity to relax. Here I must say that I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, about the hard work of the senior Civil Service. The extraordinarily poor survival rate after pension is distressing, and I am sure is related to overwork. Something has gone wrong there. There is too much paper. I think it is reading files that does it. I never read a file; I get somebody to make a digest of it or tell me what is in it. To face a pile of files makes one sick.

I have said quite enough about the matter. I have great admiration for the Civil Service. I hope it will have an earlier retirement age. I think it is one of the ways out—out, not in a bad sense, but in a good sense. My wife was able to retire from the Civil Service at the age of 52 and freeze her pension because she is a woman. This is admirable. Why should not men do this? Who wants to go on in the same job, or even the same kind of job, for 40 or 45 years? Those who are really stuck in the rut; those who are unadventurous. Well, we want the "oddities" of whom my noble friend Lord Snow spoke, and we want the people who are ready to adventure in the Civil Service. Let them adventure for a bit, and after a time go off and adventure somewhere else.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by saying how agreeable it was to me to listen to the speeches of the three ex-Permanent Secretaries, ex-colleagues, and friends, in this debate this afternoon. They seemed to me to typify the diversity of style combined with the consistently high standard of performance which marks the administrative class from which they sprang.

My Lords, I have been tempted to take part in this debate, for I suppose I am as good an example as any, though now somewhat decayed and passé, of the amateur (I leave others to supply the adjective) and the "generalist" so freely "roasted" in this Report. For I have been a Foreign Service officer, a Home civil servant and, with the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, a denizen of the nationalised penumbra wherein lies the Atomic Energy Authority. Of course, one must try to avoid being a laudator temporis acti, or refer to bygone days, such as those when the personnel department of an admittedly small Foreign Service consisted of the Second Private Secretary, at one time the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, who did the job with efficiency, humanity and good sense single-handed. Such comments are no doubt out of place, and regarded as worse than frivolous in certain Common Rooms in Oxford. But the Fulton Report does not make very good reading for people who have spent most of their lives in the service of the State—not so much for its recommendations, some of which are perfectly sound, but for its general approach and tone and for its immoderate attack on the performance of the existing Service, particularly the administrative class.

It seems to me that the Committee have tried to keep up with the times but have succeeded only in keeping up with the slogans of the times. One expects, of course, the pendulum to swing, but it is a very long swing from the advocacy of a First in Greats to a diploma in social psychology as the ideal training for a Government servant. As, unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, I am not making a maiden speech, I am tempted to describe the notion that a man with a degree in economics and sociology is likely to make a better manager or administrator—and in the dictionary the words are virtually interchangeable—than a graduate in philosophy or history as (to use, if I may, an unparliamentary expression) poppycock. So far as I know, there has been nothing for many years to prevent economists, sociologists or graduates in any discipline from getting into the Civil Service if they do well enough in the tests.

There is an old story about an interview in 1940 between the late Lord Weir and Mr. Wendell Willkie, in which Mr. Wendell Willkie was inquiring in what way the United States could be of assistance to Britain by the provision of raw materials or manufactured goods. Lord Weir replied that no doubt there were many commodities of which Britain was short, though he felt that in one way or another the deficiencies would eventually be made up. There was one commodity, however, of which, in Lord Weir's opinion, there would always be a permanent shortage. After a pause, Mr. Willkie asked what that commodity might be, to which Lord Weir answered, "Brains, Mr. Willkie, brains". This is still the commodity most needed, and I suppose it is still in short supply, in the Public Service.

Happily, my Lords, my remarks on what I feel is miguided and unjustified criticism of the Civil Service can be curtailed, owing to the Memorandum of Reservation written by the noble Lord, Lord Simey. I think I agree with almost every word of it, and also with the substance of the reservations which he has made, with some of his colleagues, on other points in the Report.

Before I comment on one or two of the specific recommendations, there is one general point, which has certainly been mentioned but not heavily stressed, that I would make. Already, five or six years ago, the Civil Service was being weakened by departures, especially from the higher ranks, to the outside world. The Service was already stretched. But the burdens placed on the Civil Service in recent times have been greater than at any time since the war. The number of Ministers has been the largest in our history, involving more private secretaries, private offices and servicing. A large number of temporaries—whether one should call them "amateurs" or "professionals" I am not sure, but certainly persons unused to working in Government Departments—have been brought in, and the education, servicing and assimilation of these persons requires a considerable administrative effort by those already in place.

But the major burden has come from the "general post" which has been taking place among the Departments, anti which began before the present Government took office. We have had the creation of completely new Departments: the Department of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Technology, and of Land and Resources—though that met an early death. We have had concentrations of work in one Department, in the Department of Education and Science, in the Ministry of Defence, and now in the Ministry of Employment and Productivity. We have had transfers of blocks of work from one Department to another. These are only a few highlights. Over this period there have been Commissions and Committees of Inquiry in profusion, all of which have to be staffed and serviced by Departments. There has been a mushrooming of regional bureaucracy, with economic councils alongside economic planning boards, and regional offices of the Ministry of Technology beside regional offices of the Board of Trade.

A practice seems to have developed of setting up two Departments in a field of activity which had hitherto been the province of one Department. The Department of Economic Affairs aid the Treasury, the Ministry of Technology and the Board of Trade, are examples. This policy establishes an interface between Departments in the same field which inevitably generates friction and therefore increases the strain on the machine and on the civil servants who have to work it. Could it be that the Fulton Committee's apparent failure to take all this into account is partly responsible for the tenor of the Report? I know that the machinery of Government was outside their purview, but they might have taken account of this bouleversement which has been going on when criticising the extent to which the Civil Service have got on with the process of reforming themselves. How could a Service stretched to this extent have found the time and the people for the study of management in depth, for going to management courses and for further training? How could they have arranged for major internal reforms, for example, for longer periods of service in each post, when all their energies were involved in manning and running rapidly changing and expanding bureaucracy and meeting the ever-increasing demands of Ministers upon it?

It seems to me that this is fundamental to the consideration of this matter. Even a reformed Service on the lines now proposed would have been in difficulties in such a situation. You cannot expect a plant to grow and develop if you are frequently pulling it out by the root or dividing it up. In point of fact, in spite of this pressure, the Civil Service did a lot, both in thought and in action, in these years: in action, I instance the development of the Centre for Administrative Studies; in thought, the excellent Treasury evidence to which the Committee perhaps did less than justice.

My Lords, it is perhaps a cause of disappointment to some that the Government have instantly accepted three important recommendations of the Committee, all of which I think are questionable, before there has been an opportunity for public discussion. Though hesitating to differ from my former chief as Financial Secretary, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, I myself regret—and I realise that I am in the minority here—the decision to set up a new Department for the Civil Service including the Civil Service Commission. It seems to have been done not for any fundamental reason of organisation or efficiency but because it was assumed to be a popular move against a supposedly hated Treasury. Sir Frank Kearton, in a broadcast interview, said, in his breezy way, that it seemed to him to be a "jolly good gimmick". But my main objection to it is that it involves an extension of bureaucracy and sets up another interface—another possible source of irritation and friction within the Civil Service between the new Department and the Treasury. These difficulties are recognised and discussed in the Fulton Report, but hardly resolved.

When the Treasury was split in two parts in 1966, with one Permanent Secretary for the First Lord of the Treasury's business and one Permanent Secretary for the Chancellor's business, this was, in my view, a logical and successful arrangement. I regretted the second split when the first Permanent Secretaryship was divided between the Secretary of the Cabinet and the Head of the Civil Service, because it led to some diffusion of responsibility. Now this responsibility is still further diffused. If it was desired to have a Minister to deal with this part of the business of the First Lord of the Treasury, then could not this have been done by appointing another Minister in the Treasury?

The second decision is for a classless Civil Service. Here, my Lords, I would make a general comment. It would be absurd not to recognise that many of the recommendations in this Report relate to sensible and necessary reforms, but the effect of the Report, to my mind, is trequently spoiled by going too far and over-egging the pudding. The classless Civil Service is one example, though I will not spend long on it. I might say, en passant, that no doubt there are too many classes in the Civil Service, but that, having recently been concerned with job evaluation in a very small firm, my imagination boggles at doing it for over half a million civil servants, though the Committee rather play this down, Further, I think that this extreme approach has led the Committee into unresolved difficulties—for example, as regards the intake of graduates in relation to the senior posts and to the formation of the Senior Policy and Management Group itself.

I should like to take a much simpler illustration—policy-planning—which has been discussed by other noble Lords. The proposal for planning sections in Departments is, I believe, a sound one (incidentally, the Foreign Office has had one for a number of years), but the Committee then go on to say that this should be under the direction of a new functionary, a policy-planning officer, with special attributes and a special relationship with the Permanent Secretary which can only be described as "fuzzy".

With other noble Lords who have spoken I sec no reason for such an office. A Permanent Secretary, if only to survive, will delegate the supervision of blocks of work—and planning may well be one—within the Department to Deputies and Under-Secretaries. He will also give them direct access to Ministers. But he must equally remain in full control of the work of the Department—as indeed the Fulton Committee recognise—and, I would add, more particularly of projections into the future. So, why transform a workable system into one which at best will not involve a significant change, and at worst will set up a potential source of friction within Departments?

The third decision relates to the proposal for a Civil Service College. When I read the Report this seemed to me to be a case of setting up a large university-type institution, with presumably quite a large faculty, equipped "for major teaching and research functions". I had thought this was a rather extravagant proposal, and that existing universities and business schools could provide most, if not all, of both the training and the research. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, this afternoon sought to reassure us on both these points. I was only partially reassured, and I found myself in agreement on this point with what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.

My Lords, if I have criticised the general tone and recommendations of this Report I have also accepted that there is need for change in many of the directions pointed out by the Committee. Fortunately, apart from the three decisions I have mentioned, the application of the remaining recommendations is to be worked out, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, again assured us, in discus- sions with all concerned. Personally, I agree with Lord Simey that the necessary reforms can be obtained by encouraging the evolution of what is basically the present situation, given the necesssary amendments in direction and emphasis". So it boils down to the question of how this Report is to be implemented; and fortunately this is supremely a question of "men, not measures". The work will fall mainly on the shoulders of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the recently appointed head of the Civil Service, Sir William Armstrong. In their judgment and abilities I have complete confidence, and I am equally sure that they will have the willing co-operation of the civil servants concerned, in spite of the battering that they have hid. So I reach the conclusion that, under such leadership, the Civil Service will survive even the Fulton Report, and adapt itself successfully to the ever-increasing demands which are likely to be made upon it.

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great privilege and pleasure to follow the three distinguished maiden speakers to-day, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, and the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. It is very interesting: we are having a discussion as between professionalism and amateurism, but in fact the debate, in terms of constituent discussants has taken the form as between the permanent and the temporaries. Noble Lords have either been speaking from experience in the established Civil Service or speaking as I do, as a wartime temporary. I may say I take no great credit for my contribution to the Civil Service during the war, but the fact is that at the end of the war I was asked to go permanently into the Foreign Office and, with great modesty, I said, "You do not build Nissen huts on to the Foreign Office". Some others, like our distinguished maiden speakers, the noble Lords, Lord Helsby and Lord Redcliffe-Maud did go on and they built permanent structures into the Civil Service.

What we are talking about to-day is a matter of profound importance. I am only sorry that in addition to discussing the reform of the Civil Service we are not also discussing that reform in relation to government machinery and policy. I believe that the Fulton Report has done an extraordinarily good job, as has been demonstrated by the speeches this afternoon, in opening wide windows and letting through strong draughts. We all agree, including the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, in his attack on the Report, that it has accomplished that. It has indeed shown that we need drastic reforms of the Civil Service if we are to keep up with the times.

This brings me to the only point on which I wish to speak at any length, and that is the essential question of the relationship of specialism to generalism. It is always difficult for me to talk about this because I have spent most of my life trying to encourage people to become scientists and trying to get science into government, and the proper applications of science in society. But it is true, as others have said, that we have almost passed that curve. It has been said that the Report reflects the cult; I can say that the cult is now passing. We are getting more and more suspicious of the experts. In fact, I myself have spoken of the potential tyranny of the experts, and we are becoming more aware that we have to get on speaking terms with them in order to curb them. The function of the Civil Service, and a very important responsibility of the Civil Service as we want it to develop, is that in point of fact it can call the bluff of the scientist. This is no reflection on my scientist friends, but it is important in the sense that most of our lives are now dictated or dominated by science, or the effects of it. My noble friend, Lord Snow, referred to a point which I repeat, that when you are dealing with the so-called expert, you are talking mainly about the language of the so-called expert. That is, if he cannot express his ideas in anything except the jargon of the trade, then it is a subject which ought to be looked at with very hard scrutiny indeed.

It was said by the late Lord Rutherford that if a scientist could not explain to the charwoman scrubbing the laboratory floor what he was doing, he did not know what he was doing. My practical experience is on the same lines. We are talking about what should be the necessary qualities of civil servants, particularly, I would say, in the higher echelon. That is that they must be able to understand the nature of science, and to be able to call the bluff of the scientist when he is talking purely the jargon of science. I may say that with notable exceptions, like the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, who took a First in history but nevertheless managed to take over the Atomic Energy Authority and, indeed, to cope very effectively with the experts, this has not at least been visible or seen to be apparent in the handling by the Civil Service of the experts. I think it was my noble friend, the Leader of the House, Lord Shackleton, who pointed out that in point of fact what we are doing here, and in this Report, is not only giving a lead within the Civil Service, but we are giving a lead within the whole society, and, above all, we are giving a lead in education.

If we are going to have the civil servants, whom we are discussing, qualified—not specialised to the point where they are intellectually crippled, which is true of many experts—to form judgments about the essentials of science, and the nature of progress in our time, then we have to have people who have a liberal education and who understand science. I have no reservation in my admiration for the people who have come out of Oxford with Modern Greats and so on, but we (do need people who will understand science, not practise it; not the experts, but people who can understand science. Therefore, the nature of our educational system has to be changed if we are going ultimately to get the kind of people who are essential, not only to the Civil Service, but to industry and, if I may say so, to politics as well, the people who can grasp the forces which are now changing so rapidly.

The approach to this has been impressed upon me by the fact that I was asked not long ago to take an American chair of generalism. At first I thought it was journalism. This was in a very famous post-graduate scientific university, and the object of this exercise was to teach the experts what they themselves were doing and what the people next door were doing, because they were so lost in their specialisations.

So, in heartily endorsing most of this Report, and the conclusions, I suggest to my noble friend, the Leader of the House, that we should have very strong reservations about the emphasis which has been laid on specialisation as a necessary criteria for the Civil Service. If we do, we shall be perpetuating the trend, which I think is passing, of asking for more and more specialists, and demanding that there should be specialits, even (shall we say?) in administration of policy. As a planner introduced into the hallowed precincts of the Foreign Office during the war when I was supposed to be taking scientific methods into policy, I want to say that of course I agree with the planning of policy and, of course we must have that. This does not mean that you exclude the policy-makers. You are in fact supporting and integrating the policy-makers and giving them proper support, foresight and so forth. I am very glad to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, agrees with that. We do need very substantial improvements, I suggest, in the Civil Service along the lines which most people have accepted, while rejecting the criticism, or what some people call the slurs, on the Service.

One thing I do know is that we must recognise this clear and distinct dichotomy between what has been called the "generalist" and the specialist. I insist that the "generalist" must bring within the scope of his understanding in any liberal education, in any development of Civil Service administration, not the expertise (to use the word which Lord Snow properly rejected) but the understanding of the meaning of science in such a way that he can be on speaking terms with the experts.

6.56 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot rise to make a few observations on the subject under discussion without joining with other speakers in expressing admiration for the outstanding maiden speeches to which we have listened this afternoon, speeches which surely are a sufficient refutation in themselves of some aspersions which have been cast upon the quality of the public service in some quarters.

Whatever we may think of this Report, and its recommendations, I am sure we all agree on one thing: the importance of the matters to which it relates. Few things are more essential to the well being of our society than the efficiency and quality of the public service. With respect, Ministers come and go. One must never minimise the significance of their impact, but history shows that we can survive a good deal that is not altogether first-rate in that respect. The public service, however, goes on. If its performance declines in standard, the effects are widespread and long-lasting. A very momentous responsibility is therefore attached to the labours of Lord Fulton and his associates.

My Lords, to my very great regret, I do not admire this Report. Some members of the Committee are valued friends, and it causes me pain to say this. While I agree with many speakers that it contains many recommendations, most of which had germs, at any rate, in practices already being initiated in the Civil Service, on balance—for reasons which I will develop—I think its effects will be harmful.

I would prefer to begin by dwelling a little on some of the matters on which I agree. Let me say first that I support the proposed hiving-off of the establishments Division of the Treasury aid the creation of a separate Ministry. I do not think this will necessarily lead to conspicuous improvements in the efficiency of the Service. I confess I have never thought that the establishment side of the Treasury was the impressive part of that splendid Department. But I suspect that most of its shortcomings, such as they are, are due much more to the nature of the job to be performed, the uniquely vast field to be covered, and its peculiar liability to public questioning, than to any inherent lack of quality in the top administration, and I should not expect these inherent difficulties to disappear if it functions under another name and another Minister.

I imagine, too, that the change will involve some duplication of functions. After all, the Treasury cannot ladle out to the new Ministry without proper examination just what it asks for in the shape of sums to be voted. Nevertheless, on balance I would support the change. I believe it is probably desired by a substantial number of men I should respect in other departments of State. I also think it would deflect from the operation of the main divisions of the Treasury, with their admirable resourcefulness, informality and flexibility of outlook, some of the opprobrium which derives from the operations of a branch of administration which, however well it is run, is bound to be unpopular among the unreflecting and the interested.

Secondly, I should wish to lend support in principle, if not in detail, to the proposal that there should be a general overhaul of the grading system in the so-called General Service Classes; and I am not opposed to any practicable suggestions for simplifying the other classifications and creating greater general mobility within the Service. I do not support this as an enlightened proposal which in the past has only been supported by clearheaded visionaries outside the Service, or on the ground that it will initiate revolutionary changes in the direction of more equal opportunity. I wonder how many readers of the main Report, with its penumbra of implication of making all things new in a milieu totally resistant to change, would realise that 40 per cent. of the present Administrative Class has been recruited by transfer from other classes, and that of the present Permanent and Deputy Secretaries about 13 per cent. began their careers in other groups. All this parade of the career open to talent is to a large extent an endorsement of a search which has been going on for a very long time.

But I am persuaded by the very cogent Treasury memoranda that the conduct of affairs will be facilitated by the merging of the Administrative and the Executive Classes, with perhaps the present Clerical Officer and Clerical Assistant grades thrown in as numbers 9 and 10. I agree that this should be done, and I agree further that a way should be sought of further integrations of the various specialist grades. I do not think that this will be altogether easy. I agree that the reorganisation will be a major undertaking. But under the sympathetic intuition of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the truly professional leadership of that outstanding public servant, Sir William Armstrong, I am sure that satisfactory progress can be made.

When we come to recruitment, my difficulties begin in earnest. The majority of the Committee recommend a method which, if it does not wholly restrict recruitment to the management grades to candidates who have studied economics or sociology for a first degree, would at least create a substantial bias that way. My Lords, I think this is very unwise I have taught economics all my working life. I think quite well of it as an intellectual discipline and I believe it has an important contribution to make to the understanding and running of modern societies. But to weight the requirements of entry in its favour in this way seems to me to invite one of two consequences. Either it will induce a swing of undergraduate preference for social studies even greater than is taking place at present, or it will discriminate against those who do not switch over. Neither consequence seems to me to be at all desirable.

I personally should view with something like dismay a still greater proportionate swing to social studies at the undergraduate stage; probably it has gone too far already. Equally I should regard as folly a policy which imposes any sort of self-denying ordinance as regards recruitment from other faculties. In fact the whole recommendation seems to me to rest upon an almost grotesque misapprehension. The public service needs the finest intellects available, whatever their initial schooling; and as we know, there are far too few of such intellects about. Of course, it is desirable in the modern world that a substantial proportion of the higher grades of public service should have some acquaintance with the findings and techniques of social studies. But that is something which can be acquired for many purposes at a stage later than the first degree. The idea that at that stage the main bias and the main requirements of first degree curricula should be in this area seems to me to be as wrongheaded as the idea that the best training for practical action is a course in ancient languages. At this stage of education the main requirements of the "job"—to use the Committee's rather matey jargon—are good brains; the rest can be added later by proper training.

But where should the training take place? Here I come to another point of disagreement with the Report. The Committee recommended the foundation of a special college, a Civil Service College, which is to carry out this function. I am not in principle opposed to the creation of new educational institutions; indeed, I have been criticised in this House and elsewhere for excessive zeal in this direction. But I must confess, despite the somewhat soothing remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that I think this particular institution is one we can well do without. And this for two reasons: first, that there are already in existence all sorts of institutions with which satisfactory arrangements could be made for the provision of most of the requisite training. We have just founded, at great expense, two advanced graduate schools of management in London and in Manchester; and in many universities, both traditional and technological, there exist strong departments whose aid could be enlisted.

Secondly, if the Committee's avowed objective is to bring the public service into closer touch with the rest of the community and the ordinary business of life, this is just the way not to do it. Either the college becomes highly specialised in techniques peculiar to the public service as such, in which case the desired enlargement of horizon does not take place; or it does not, and it reaches out to provide courses in management in general and the associated technique, as the Committee throw in as a suggestion, in which case it involves an unnecessary duplication of what can be done equally well elsewhere and simply increases the demand for the already sorely pressed supplies of the available academic talent. The alternative course of collaborating with existing institutions seems to me to be the ideal opportunity for bringing business and the academic world and the public service into effective co-operation. I am very sorry that the Committee have neglected it.

Now my Lords, in spite of Lord Shackleton's exhortation that we should avoid the more popular subjects of controversy, I must enter a wider sphere of disagreement; I refer, of course, to the distinction, much discussed already in the debate, between amateurism and professionalism. The Committee accused the Public Service of the former, and present their own proposals as a way of elevating it to eligibility for the latter description. It is true now and then that they pay some tribute to the occasional appearance of ability and public spirit, but their use of the term "amateur" is throughout depreciative, and there can be no question that its use is to stigmatise not merely particular arrangements but the whole organisation and ethos of the public service. My Lords, I believe this to be intellectually muddled, morally unfair and extremely damaging to the interests of the State.

I say first that it is intellectually muddled. The conception of professionalism with which the Committee operate oscillates between two ideas, the idea of adequate training in relative specialisms and the idea of deep knowledge and ability to handle other managerial jobs; and the implication is that the Public Service at present lacks both.

As regards adequate training, I should not think there is much room for difference of opinion. My quarrel with the Committee here concerns their extremely ungenerous reluctance to admit how much has already been done. The Civil Service has been very active in recent years in providing special facilities for training entrants in relative techniques; and as for the alleged failure of those with such techniques to penetrate and influence the system, I wonder whether anyone reading these stirring exhortations to renovation and reform would imagine at the present day that both the First and one of the Second Secretaries of the Treasury holds First-Class degrees in the fields so warmly recommended, and that indeed for a long time the majority of top people in the Treasury have graduated in a like manner.

What about the alleged lack of professionalism in the wider sense of the word, the deep knowledge which comes from experience and devotion to the job? Here it seems to me that if one is to describe the Public Service as amateur one must apply the epithet nearly all round—to business equally as to the Public Service. How many of the most successful men of affairs have had training in the various specialisms they organise? How many have had specific courses at an earlier stage in the precise arts which they now practise? The noble Lord, Lord Fulton, has had a very distinguished career as an educationist, but I never heard that when he was at Oxford he took special courses in academic administration, and I should regard it as without any intellectual justification whatever were I to describe him as an amateur Vice-Chancellor.

I should regard it, too, as an insult—and a totally undeserved insult at that. And in exactly the same way, and on the same grounds, I regard it as insulting to describe the present race of civil servants as amateurs. I must confess my Lords, to a deep sense of indignation in reading, and re-reading, the first chapter of this Report. This is not a fair description of the fine men among whom I had the honour to serve during the anxious years of the war—men who certainly deserve the title of professional as much as any of the signatories to this Report, and who gave much expert and dedicated effort to the Service of the State. I am not surprised that the public servants on the Committee must have felt that to protest against such indignities was beneath them, but I am amazed at what was subscribed to by others, and I thank Heaven for Lord Simey, one man who had the decency to repudiate the confusion and unfairness of it all.

In the end, what matters is not the way some of us feel shame and anger, but how the public interest is affected. And here I am clear that the effect must be almost wholly damaging. The Committee have decked out their indictment with all the clichés of contemporary fashion. For years to come, every cheapjack publicist on T.V. or radio will be repeating these facile smears; and the less knowledgeable sections of the public will be accepting them as "with it" truth. That surely will be bad. It will be bad if it is thought that the troubles of the last two decades have been due to the Public Service rather than to the policies which the Public Service has had to carry out. It will be bad if it deflects attention from the real impediments to the efficient formulation of policy which lie in the present machinery of government. It will be bad if it undermines confidence in an institution of which we should all surely be proud, and still more if it discourages and depresses the sensitive and dedicated men who work it.

For these reasons, my Lords, I am reluctantly compelled to conclude that in this respect at least the Committee have failed to rise to their important responsibilities and have let down the high traditions of fairness and objectivity which have usually characterised such public Inquiries in this country.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am not qualified to make a major contribution to this debate. After hearing so many expert speeches, and particularly the three outstanding maiden speeches, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes. I shall make only one or two remarks as a postscript to what has been said.

I speak as an outsider, an outsider who has worked closely in connection with the British, French and American services, and from that point of view it would be quite wrong if I did not add to the chorus we have heard already of those who expressed complete agreement with the dissenting minority of the noble Lord, Lord Simey. I and everybody else who has had anything to do with the Civil Service in recent years have an unbounded admiration for them and their professionalism, and I believe that our Civil Service is greatly admired abroad. It has borne a great burden, it is responsive to change and it welcomes change. Sir Stafford Northcote and my great uncle conducted a necessary revolution. We need evolutionary changes now, and the civil servants want them, too; but we do not need another revolution.

I should like also to declare my agreement with the minority in the Report on the question of the relevance of academic discipline. It is not necessary for me to repeat the many arguments that have been put forward to support this point of view. Let us get the best young men and not restrict the field. They can get their training after they come into the Service. From my own experience the only point I can add is that a number of very efficient vice-Ministers in the Soviet Foreign Service started life as aeroplane engineers. The only relevance I can think of in this training is perhaps an unusual experience in the launching of trial balloons.

The French Service is good, but I believe no better than the British Civil Service. Perhaps I am too influenced by my memory of two inspecteurs des finances doing their homework during international meetings and taking their arguments to the point of hitting each other while we waited for them to finish. But among the many good points of the French Civil Service there is, as the Report pointed out, the creation of an elite. This should warn us that we should not level down too much. If we are to get the best young men from the university they must see a real career ahead and a fairly clear way to the top.

Why should we touch the Civil Service Commission? It is true that while we have commended to so many countries the principle of the independence of the Civil Service Commission when they themselves become independent, we are naturally considering the perhaps rather greater possibilities of patronage than there are in this country. At the same time I should have thought that in the long run the best safeguard against any form of patronage or prejudice is the maintenance of the present independent position of the Commission.

I am not impressed by the Marxist analysis in the Report of Method 2 of selection. "Subjective" is treated there as a dirty word, and it is assumed that the alternative is "objective". I think the whole purpose of this method is that it should be subjective, and from my small experience of leading one of the boards I have found that on the whole it is a good method which selects the best people, though I have not had experience of getting rid of any oddities, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Snow. I also think that if we mechanise the proceeding, if we try to make it objective, by, for instance, as the Report says, aggregation of marks, we should only get a less satisfactory and more mechanical method of selection.

As has been pointed out, there are many good proposals in the Report, and a number of them have, on the recommendation of the excellent Report of the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, already been introduced into the smaller Diplomatic Service. However, I share the doubts expressed about the length to which the Report goes in advocating job evaluation across the board, because in my brief time in industry I have already heard of the great difficulties that exist in the application of this principle over a wide field.

I am glad to support the general arguments that have been put forward in favour of a further consideration of the proposal for the establishment of a Civil Service College, in consideration of the numerous other institutions which we are now establishing for all the multifarious different kinds of management training which will be required in the Civil Service. Incidentally—a small point—I find it difficult to understand why the writers of the Report should find the word "establishment" so stuffy. Are they really so affected by the fashionable use of the word as a nickname for the people in power? The old Establishment and Organisation Department in the Foreign Office never had that connotation at all. It still exists, and, so far as I know, we still call the most senior and respected amateur in charge of the administration the "Chief Clerk".

I entirely agree with all those who have criticised the proposal in the Report for the appointment of a policy adviser with a position almost equal to that of the Permanent Secretary. There is clearly here a great danger of division of authority, and there is no doubt that complete authority must remain in the hands of the Permanent Secretary who, if he is overburdened, must delegate more. We certainly do not want to introduce into the British Service the system of a Chef-de-Cabinet, an official appointed by the Minister from outside and disputing the authority of the Permanent Secretary.

There seems to be some confusian of information and anonymity in the Report. It is clear that the Civil Service Departmeats will have to give more information generally, but this should not destroy, I believe, the general principle of the anonymity of the senior civil servant; for we require from him quite different qualities from those required of a television star, and we do not wish that he should either find himself, unconsciously, perhaps, distorting his judgment in the light of the public ordeal that he has to go through or avoiding responsibility and putting the decision up to the Minister. What we must do is to maintain the traditional relationship of the Minister and the civil servant.

There is one form of Civil Service work which probably needs looking into. This is the delays that occur in negotiations with industry. All I want to say on that now is that I believe that this is not satisfactory; that often the contracts are concluded before the negotiations are finished, with obvious disadvantages to both sides involved. I hope that during the inquiries that follow this Report, this aspect can be considered.

It appears to me that what has been said here to-night is correct, that evolution in the Civil Service is only half the story; but we must also go further towards reforms in the management of government. Let us now hope that the Report will be sifted carefully, that the unfortunate impressions given by it of our Civil Service will be contested, and that the Service will be put into a position to carry out its increasing and difficult responsibilities in the future.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, may I join with other noble Lords in offering my hearty congratulations to my two colleagues, as I think I may call them, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and the noble Lord, Lord Helsby. I call them "colleagues", because for 25 years I sat on the National Whitley Council for the Civil Service, and they were at times my opponents when we were trying to reach agreement. I have the highest regard for both of them, and should like to express my great appreciation of the speeches they have made to-day. It will therefore be apparent that the angle from which I speak to-night is somewhat different from that of the speeches of those who have gone before me.

During my 25 years on the National Whitley Council I saw developments and improvements in the Civil Service, and for that reason I commence by saying that I cannot call this Report at all a good one. It seems to me that it reaches some correct conclusions, but it does so for the wrong reasons. Occasionally it reaches those conclusions despite the fact that it contradicts itself.

To say that the first paragraph startled me is to utter an understatement. It would have been a bad note on which to start even had it been accurate. But nobody who has dealt with the Civil Service for 43 years can for one moment believe in the justification for that first sweeping generalisation, unsupported as it was by any positive evidence of any kind. It is a statement which is resented by thousands of rank and file civil servants. They are used to being the "whipping boy" of the Press and the public for what we in Parliament make them do, but they think that this Report, to put it mildly, does them less than justice. Of course, the Report is right when it says in that paragraph that the Northcote-Trevelyan Report provided the initial thinking. But it is silly, and it is nonsense to forget what has happened in the 100 years that have gone; to forget all that went on in the two wars and the period in between, when we in Parliament thrust on the Service new jobs, new taxes and new complexities.

I join with the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and others, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Simey, in signing that first chapter only after he had written the most penetrating minority observation. I agree with him, as I have said, that this chapter is unfair to the Civil Service. I also agree with him that changes are desirable, but that has been said by the Civil Service itself—it has said it through its organisations in submitting evidence to the Fulton Committee. As the noble Lord, Lord Simey, said, the first chapter does not recognise the contemporary relevance of the great contribution which the Civil Service made to the successful conduct of the last war and subsequently. I join him in the belief that this chapter fails to give recognition to the Service for its many achievements and qualities. Certainly the chapter's emphasis on the Service's shortcomings leaves it open in the future, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said, for people to give a completely misleading impression.

While it is true that the foundations of the Service were laid in the middle of the nineteenth century, the characteristics it displays to-day, as the noble Lord, Lord Simey, said, are mid-twentieth century. Much more has been done to improve the efficiency of the Civil Service than is recognised in the Report. It is true that much more can be done to devise more effective forms of organization, but the noble Lord, Lord Simey, is right in reaching the conclusion that the existing Civil Service is an asset which it would be utterly foolish to discard, and that its potentialities provide an adequate basis for reform.

I lived through the great difficulties of the Civil Service from not long after the First War until 21 years ago I came into your Lordships' House. I lived through the period of the great Reorganisation Report of 1920. Those post-war years in the Civil Service represented for everybody very great difficulties in picking up the threads of the years that had gone. Let us remind ourselves that between the two wars the civil servants—thousands of whom had to be recruited hurriedly in the immediate postwar years—dealt with constant change and a multiplicity of tasks. There was vast unemployment; there was a coal crisis; there was a General Strike; there was an economic blizzard; the May Economy Committee Report, and then rearmament.

This Report may talk about nineteenth century organisation, but if you had lived with the Civil Service, taking all these things in its stride, you would have a very different kind of view. I say quite clearly that in my view the British Civil Service did the greatest job of its kind ever performed in the world. Those who have already mentioned the reactions of Ministers and the relevant job of the Civil Service, I am sure will find that no Minister who shouldered great responsibility in the war will fail to give credit to the Civil Service, both to the top people who were directing and the rank and file underneath. The expert organisation of manpower; the handling of one hundred and one new complexities unforeseen before of running a difficult economy; the feeding of people and seeing that the great directions given by the Cabinet from above were carried into effect, and the will and the morale of the British public lived up to the inspiration of the leadership. These were tasks which were never envisaged, not only in this country but anywhere in the world.

Having said that, may I say that a lot more thought needs to be given to this Report before many of the proposals suggested in it are implemented. I do not want to enter unduly into the argument about "all rounders" and "amateurs", but I must say one thing which the noble Baroness did not say in her speech but which she said in her article in the Sunday Times, which I thought very relevant, that is, that the Fulton Committee were after all rather in the position of being amateurs on the subject of the Civil Service. We, for our part, must be very careful not to take all they say as being necessarily practicable.

I certainly welcome the new Department. I welcome very much that it will have a Minister in the Cabinet as its head, and I welcome particularly the fact that my own leader, whom I admire so much, has been given this initial task in this very difficult problem. I join with others in saying how nice it is to think that Sir William becomes the permanent head of the Department. That Department has to investigate and consider rather more than the Fulton Committee investigated. Just think, my Lords—they took a peep at the U.S.A. and on little evidence adopted the American idea. If one looks at the Report, what was the evidence? The Chairman and one member of the Committee spent five days in Washington last year. In the last eighteen years I have been honoured to work with the United Nations, and I have met people in America, as others of my colleagues on these Benches have done, who, like others in the world, envy the brilliant British Civil Service and its traditions, its reliability and the way in which it still manages to keep itself aloof from graft and humbug. The more one sees of the state of public order in the U.S.A., whether you go there, as I do, or whether you only read about it, the more one sees the passage of events, the more one desires to refrain from drawing facile conclusions from the American system.

I welcome the reference to Canada, which has been busily trying to convert from the British system to this "straight through" system of the U.S.A. To be nice and polite and kind, they are having teething troubles at least. This conception of a unified structure wants more thought. The question, from the point of view of public interest, is whether or not such a structure would provide a more flexible organisation. There is a very good case for unification in the higher Civil Service, and it can probably be taken down to middle level, but whether you can have a completely unified structure among the lower levels where the numbers are so large—lot us remember they are running to half a million—is another matter.

It seems to me that the Report, on little or no evidence, seeks to throw everything overboard in favour of a system which has yet to be proved in practice. I suggest to the Minister that before we are committed to any form of copying the U.S.A. system, an early task of the Department should be to send a mission from both sides of the National Whitley council, composed of persons of differing rank and views with a real knowledge of the work in the Civil Service of this country, properly to examine the U.S.A. system and to return to the Minister with excellent information.

The weakness of the Report is that it devotes so much time and space to the graduate entrant, and seems to give very little attention to those tens of thousands underneath. One of the things that it talks about, of course, is this wonderful "job evaluation". I do not want to repeat what other noble Lords have said, but that wants looking at closely by the Department before any decision is reached. There is a tremendous difference between the application of job evaluation techniques in a motor car factory—and they have had enough strikes—and applying job evaluation in the Civil Service.

I cannot end without saying a little about training. With the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I cannot see the need for this college as at present suggested. Very valuable training schemes were instituted before the war ended. I was associated with my friend, Ernest Bevin, whose inspiration gave the first training to Ministry of Labour staff. There could have been more training than there has been, but over the years the dead hand of the Treasury and lack of money has kept it down. But even when the Report deals with training, once again it bemuses everybody by speaking so much in terms of "graduates" and "professionals" and forgetting all those tens of thousands underneath. The Committee recognise the need to provide for the present generation of civil servants, and the Civil Service organisations welcome this. They have been pressing for it for years, and they gave evidence to the Committee on this matter. Many civil servants have had little or no training opportunities since recruitment.

The reference to recruitment leads me to one other contradiction in the Report. It is anxious that there should be inter- change between industry and the Civil Service. I am all in favour in principle, but at the same time the Report attaches great importance, as I do, to the career value which must exist for civil servants. The muddle in trying to marry the idea of a career service with this interchange can only be seen if one tries to read the Report a second time. I am all in favour of civil servants getting in touch with the public whom they serve. An excellent idea was implemented in the Ministry of Labour—the sending out of assistant principals after recruitment to work in employment exchanges for six months to get to know the work being done by the staff and to get in touch with the common public. Afterwards, when they sat down in Whitehall to write minutes or directions, they had some idea of the people for whom they were taking ultimate responsibility, and also about the public they were trying to serve.

I could go on talking about the contradictions I find in the Report. I will give only one more so as not to keep your Lordships at this late hour. I refer to the comment that the management side of the Service has regarded success in reaching agreement with the staff side as an end in itself and failure to reach agreement as a failure of management. I cannot help wondering what would have been the reaction of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions had they been able to read the Fulton Report before issuing their own Report. I do not know what they would have thought about it. Probably they would have thought it odd that management should be criticised for striving too hard to reach agreement with staff representatives. I should like to know the reactions of the right honourable lady who now leads the Department of Employment and Productivity, and for that matter, the views of the right honourable gentleman who said that he was so glad to have come from the Ministry of Labour "of blessed memory".

If I have given a mixed blessing to this report, it is because the Report itself is so mixed. I wanted to sound a warning about some of its contents. However, after this long general debate, it would not be right at this late hour for me to go on for too long. This Report will take its place alongside the Tomlin and Priestley Reports and others which have followed since the Northcote-Trevelyan Report. We wanted guidance from this Committee on evolution, but I cannot help thinking that what we have been given are proposals for revolution—proposals which for a long time to come will give a headache to my friends who remain on the National Whitley Council.

In conclusion, I am sure the noble Lord who has just taken over the task of organising this department has a very great job in front of him. One of his first tasks, following upon the first paragraph of the Fulton Report, is to lift the morale of the Civil Service a little. The rank and file do not like that statement, and it is still up to your Lordships and Parliament to realise that in general it may be that we have a much better Civil Service than we deserve.

7.44 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Crook, will forgive me if I do not follow him into the subjects which he has covered. The noble Lord, Lord Snow, made particular reference to the Northcote-Trevelyan and Macaulay Reports. I wish to start with the parts of those Reports which dealt with the method of selection of candidates. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report refers on page 18 to: a proper system of examination for the supply of the public service with a thoroughly efficient class of men. The Macaulay Report goes into greater detail as to the content of the examinations. With Benjamin Jowett on the Committee, this Report emphasises the importance of skill in Greek or Latin versification. Admitting that this has no direct tendency to form a judge, a financier, or a diplomatist, it was a good method of selection because, says the Report: the youth who does best what all the ablest and most ambitious youths about him are trying to do well will generally prove a superior man". There is a caveat to this, and it is probably pure Macaulay: We must remember that in the North of this island the art of metrical composition in the ancient languages is very little cultivated and eminent men … would probably have been quite unable to write a good copy of Latin alcaics or to translate ten lines of Shakespeare into Greek iambics. However antediluvian the description of that system appears to us now, with its 6,875 marks of which only 500 were allotted to science subjects, they got the principle right—the principle of contemporary comparisons.

With the ever-widening horizons of present-day university education, the old examination system has had its day. The Fulton Report, by a small majority of 7 to 5 came down in favour of retaining, though in a minor position, the examination system of entry known as Method I. To me the reasons they give are most impressive. Method II, known as the Civil Service Selection Board or, more colloquially, as "the country house procedure", has been evolved largely on the initiative of Sir Percy Waterfield out of the War Office Selection Boards and is continually evolving. In Appendix E this procedure is examined critically and some sound recommendations are made for improvement. Some of the references, however, appear to me to be slight and slighting. Perhaps they are based on inadequate information, for they seem to take but little account of the very great success of this procedure compared with anything else in the world of analogous kind. Quite possibly, this will be put right in the later volumes of the Report which will be able to go into this question in greater detail.

Personally, I have no recent knowledge of the Civil Service Selection Board, but I am rather surprised by the statement in paragraph (1) of this Appendix that: … we have serious doubts about the staffing and methods of work of the Civil Service Selection Board. This statement makes me wonder how many of the Committee have had recent first-hand experience of the procedures of the Civil Service Selection Board. I do not expect an immediate answer or this question, but other statements in Appendix E have awakened in me some apprehension. I am very hopeful that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who has had such great experience of selection boards in the R.A.F., will understand the importance of visiting this Board and seeing for himself its value as a method for the selection of civil servants.

I greatly regret that I can find nothing in the Report which recognises that these procedures of the Civil Service Selection Board are almost certainly the best example in practice of the quantum jump in the art and science of selecting people by assessing their capacities. So far as I know, this great advance in personnel selection, though copied by others throughout the world, has not been superseded by another system; nor is it likely to be displaced in the foreseeable future. From its outset Method II, the Civil Service Selection Board, has maintained a "follow-up". This is an intense and continuing scrutiny of the subsequent achievements of those who have been selected. I rather think that this has been very favourably commented on by the Estimates Committee of another place.

I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, has just said about this method, and I am glad that he drew attention to the fact that a root problem is that it can never be completely objective, though it goes a very long way to being so. This emphasises the importance of getting the right staff and assessors, both resident and semi-permanent, and securing part-time staff who are themselves involved in the workings of their departments. If I may loosely paraphrase what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said in his most interesting opening speech, we must get the ablest persons, intellectually, even if we have to go to Oxford and Cambridge to get them.

Thus those who are responsible for the Civil Service Selection Board should remember that Macaulay's remarks about talented persons "in the North of this island" are of as great importance as they were a hundred years ago. Beware of the modern equivalent of a bias in seeking human excellence by its ability to versify. More than pure intellect is essential, and that is why I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Simey, has said in his reservations to Chapter 1, where he describes what is essential as: a capacity to face the truth at all costs, however inconvenient it may be to do so. I submit that there is no better way of assessing this than by a Selection Board.

This excellent and fascinating Report has already been studied in Scotland, where our Civil Service arrangements are in certain respects peculiar to ourselves. The Secretary of State for Scotland is directly responsible for a whole variety of Departments administered in England by independent Ministers. In Edinburgh we have a unique set-up, with our own Whitehall in St. Andrew's House, and some there are who call it a "mini-Whitehall". The noble Lord, Lord Fulton, is himself an expatriate Scot, the son of a most distinguished Principal of University College, Dundee—the man who put that college, now a university, on the map. It is therefore surprising, to say the least, that the first volume of the Report has only one specific reference to Scotland. Very few people have found it, for it is located in Appendix D, where it is stated that: Scotland should clearly continue to have a separate legal service. That is all.

In the long ago, previous to the Reorganisation of Offices (Scotland) Act, three of the present Departments—Education, Health and Agriculture—were virtually independent bodies reporting directly to the Secretary of State in one or other of his official capacities. This seems to me to be pretty near the method advocated in her most excellent speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for this independence included recruitment and promotion. Thus it was that these Departments all had a series of distinguished heads, men of great authority in their own spheres, men sometimes brought in later on at the age of 30 or so to serve the State.

In Agriculture we had Sir Robert Patrick Wright, who was Principal of the West of Scotland College of Agriculture. In Education we had one of the greatest numismatists of his time in Sir George Macdonald. We have had a series of His Majesty's Inspectors as heads of the Education Department. Now this has changed, and the reason for the change in these technical departments is, I believe, associated with a memorandum submitted in the late 'fifties to the Treasury from the Association of First Division Civil Servants, urging that certain posts should no longer be open to civil servants who had entered as technical officers.

An example of the effect of this in the Scottish Education Department has been disclosed by the political reporter of the Scotsman, and can be seen in the fact that the possession of direct experience in school teaching is no longer regarded as a useful qualification for appointment to a senior post. In Volume 5 of the Report, the evidence of the Educational Institute of Scotland is rebutted by the Scottish Education Department in this curious phrase: It would be wrong to stipulate that a significant proportion of senior posts should be reserved for members of the Inspectorate…regardless of merit. It seems to me that that is an evasive answer. No one at any time, in the Fulton Report or elsewhere, has suggested that experts and scientists should be promoted regardless of merit. The crunch of the argument is that they should have equal opportunity of promotion on their merit.

Not for one moment do I wish to cast any aspersion on the present holders of administrative posts in Scotland, or some recent ones who have not been officers in the technical branches. Scotland has been, and is being, well served by these distinguished servants of the Crown, and, indeed, "amateur" is the last word that we in Scotland should wish to apply to them. What I want to point out, however, is that Scotland was equally well served when the Departments contained a large element of what the Fulton Report calls "scientists, engineers and specialists".

Accordingly, I welcome the proposal for a single unified grading structure whereby it will be possible for those specialists who have the ability to get right up to the top. This has another advantage. My own experience of the Civil Service is chiefly through science. I have noticed that not a few of the "generalist" civil servants do not use their scientists properly. Very seldom is the scientist at the point of decision. He may be consulted before, but he is seldom even on the doormat when the crucial decisions are taken.

Very few generalists are competent to interpret to the Minister the advice of the scientists. With the best will in the world, they put a slant on it. Occasionally, their mind on policy having already been made up, the scientific advice which supports that policy is blown-up to bolster it, while inconvenient facts are quietly suppressed. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has spoken of the need for senior civil servants to call the bluff of the scientist. I submit that the civil servant who best can do this is the one who is himself a scientist in his own right; that is to say, a scientist of the standard of Ph.D.

I direct your Lordships' attention to the position of accountants in the Civil Service, which this Report reveals in Appendix D. In the entire Civil Service there are posts for only 309 qualified accountants out of the 25,000 who make up the profession in this country. Of these Government accountants, not one carries a salary above £4,500. With the vast increase in expenditure by the public sector, common sense decrees that if industry and commerce find that accountants make good managing directors, surely the profession has something to offer to Government—something more than they are allowed to give under the existing system.

In the future, those scientists who will make the greatest contribution to the State in administration will have gained a postgraduate degree. Already in industry it is commonplace for the Ph.D. to gel right up to the top of his firm, particularly in the science-based industries; and I feel that much the same holds good for other specialists and experts. They will have to have some post-graduate experience before coming into the Civil Service, so they may well be aged 30 or so before they come in. They must be encouraged to do this if we are to get the scientists and the experts with the best brains. Thus we must make the highest echelons open to such persons, with a full career in the Civil Service, because then it becomes attractive to them and, in consequence, much better men will be recruited.

8.1 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome this debate wholeheartedly. I had decided the lines I thought I would be following, but the debate so far—and particularly the three most re mark-able maiden speeches—has changed quite considerably the tone and content of what I had intended to say. I should like to join in the very warm tributes to three people whom I have known for a long time and who I hope will, and indeed must, give of their wisdom to this House on many future occasions—occasions which are not necessarily specialist but which are perhaps outside their own particular specialisations.

My Lords, I have never been a civil servant. To that extent I think I am almost unique among those who have spoken so far to-day. But for a continuous period of over a quarter of a century I have worked with, or for, at least six Government Departments at one time or another, and with three of them at least I have had particularly close contact for continuous periods of ten years. I started with the proper disrespect for anything bureaucratic—in other words, for the Civil Service—but long ago I changed my mind. I have in that time formed a very high respect indeed for almost all those senior civil servants, and very many less senior, whom I have come to know. Almost always that respect has continued to grow with increasing experience. This respect has applied, it goes without saying, to their unquestionable integrity and very high sense of disinterested purpose and duty—those qualities for which our Service is famous and admired throughout the world. It has also applied to the less widely appreciated qualities of imagination and initiative, and the willingness to listen to advice from outside, which is sometimes good and sometimes not, and to weigh it accordingly.

Few people from outside the Civil Service have the opportunity of appreciating how much talent and ability and devotion and hard work there is to be found in that Service. I am delighted, therefore, to pay my tribute to the men and women in that Service, to whom our country owes so much. They and their forebears have made the Service in the past and, under a changed structure, will make it even better in the future.

Just as in every growing company or activity in the private sector with which I have ever been connected, the system and organisation have never changed or evolved as fast as events required. I believe that despite the failings which are being so mercilessly exposed to-day, there is in this Report a great deal that is going to be valuable in future evolution. The Report looks forward, but it is in many ways a pity that it chooses also to look back in order to draw lessons from the past. I think it identifies some real organisational weaknesses which were not fully recognised before by some of us. I think that in some cases at least it pinpoints the right solution.

My Lords, the central recommendations are of course the key to the whole Report, and I believe they are right. For example, a new grading structure and the separation of the management of the Civil Service from the Treasury, with the absorption into the new Department of the Civil Service Commission. But there are a few particular aspects which of course need further thought, and, as with most people, the first one is professionalism. By inclination I am an amateur, which I count a word of praise and not of disrespect. But I am absolutely convinced and have frequently preached that the day of the gifted amateur in most competitive walks of life is, and must be, over. Competition is too strong. The amateur really cannot win unless he adopts a professional attitude alongside his colleagues, and the young man must have a professional attitude if he is to get to the top of the tree.

My Lords, what is the profession about which we are talking? I have been chairman of half-a-dozen or more Government Committees, some of them very important ones indeed. I think there was only one thing common to them all, and that is that I did not know anything at all about the subject of reference of any one of those Committees. That must mean that I was not chosen as a professional in those spheres of life, about which I knew nothing, but that I was chosen because I had some varied attributes which might make me perhaps to some degree a professional in handling a committee of inquiry appointed by the Government. It is particularly in management, which was for long not thought to require anything more than a flair, that objective training in modern methods and the use of modern tools and a high degree of continuity in the field of application is generally thought to be needed. Just as elsewhere, even the most talented people will be able to make the most of their talents only if the career system under which they work encourages and indeed requires a professional attitude to the particular job they are trying to do. The tasks of the Civil Service and their responsibilities are not merely incomparably greater than they were one hundred years ago; in many respects they are different, and so are the openings available to those who otherwise would have gone into the Civil Service as one of the few select professions available. So it would be extraordinary if the same generalised approach throughout the Service could possibly serve now.

But it is not merely that. It is, I think, that in almost every task in life there is so much more sophisticated knowledge to be acquired than there used to be that only those who have really delved deep can hold their own with others of their own generation. The skills and judgment that experience has taught my generation and earlier generations have nowadays often to be acquired more quickly by the managers of to-morrow by deliberate training and by deliberate career management. But I do not nearly so fully equate an administrator with a manager as the Report does. I feel sure that Permanent Secretaries, and those who who are on the path that leads to their becoming Permanent Secretaries of Government Departments, require a combination of personal qualities, including human qualities, that make this a quite different profession from that of management.

I have looked at the division suggested between two groups of administrators, or even of managers: on the one hand, economic and financial; and, on the other, social. I am not happy about that. I think that a better division might be rather economic and financial, on the one hand, and social and financial (also financial), on the other. Thinkers can be economists or social scientists; but questions of how much money and how it is to be obtained, and what are the remoter financial implications of any course of action, apply with equal force both to the economic and social areas of life. Both have to be faced equally by administrators or by the managers responsible within their own groups.

My Lords, my next point refers to the question of accountable management by objectives, as it is now known in the whole of industry—even though it is fairly new and, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton said, was first pressed upon us in industry (as is often enough the case) by Government Departments and from within the Civil Service. It involves the creation of identifiable profit centres and of making management accountable both for devising the objectives and assessing the cost and for reaching it. In any business, there is some area of activity that it is difficult to make accountable or to assess. But there are quite a number of others where it pays great dividends to spend more on paying experts and accountants in order to achieve results.

This is not new. If I may I will give one example from my own experience. It was the first Government Committee that I was asked to undertake. It was the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, who was kind enough to suggest that I might be the person to do it and it related to the cost of school buildings, which at that time was assumed by those responsible for housing to be extremely extravagant. The implication was that houses could be built in greater quantity, and quickly if the Ministry of Education were prevented from wasting so much money on building schools. I, knowing nothing about that, was asked to look at it.

I found in that particular case that the Ministry of Education, seeing what was coming, had set up a professional department (calling it the Architects and Buildings Branch) which had an accountant, an architect and an administrator at the head. They had set up this branch in order to provide yardsticks for school building. The result was that for both primary and secondary schools the cost per place, which was one of the yardsticks, was reduced in the space of about two years by 40 per cent.; and a further result was that the schools came out better and not worse than the ones that were more expensive but not organised.

In any business, in order to achieve these economies, it is necessary to spend more on management training and instruction, on teaching the new techniques of management and on sufficient management accountancy—and this means accountants, modern management accountants. The one set of figures in the Report that rather shocked me was that relating to accountants, and in particular to their numbers. I strongly support the recommendations about the upgrading in numbers, quality, status and pay of accountants of the right typos.

My Lords, I should like to turn far a moment to the question of hiving-off—not the hiving-off of the planning officer, where I agree absolutely with those speakers who think it wrong—but the hiving-off of parts of Departments to public boards. I know that if a business or part of a business gets too large and outgrows the existing management then every so often hiving-off parts to a separate profit centre must be undertaken. Every department, like every business and every department of every business, gets too big for centralised management. The real test must be efficiency. To me, this hiving-off to public bodies makes sense, but I hope that when it takes place it will be in areas of activity where results will be quantified and where management by objectives can take place.

In beekeeping, a swarm is hived-off to make a new colony in order to produce more and not less honey or profit for the farmer. Moreover, very often the new colony is not established adjacent to the old one. I should like to urge that there should still be continuous effort to decentralise from Whitehall, not merely just to St. Andrew's House, to Belfast or to Cardiff, but to other parts of England, too. This is not a plea for more regional government. It is to enable people at the centre to be continuously and instinctively aware of the consequences of proposed actions and likely reactions well away from London.

During the last 25 years the Civil Service has had one valuable but diminishing legacy to which both the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, and the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, made reference. During the last war a large number of very talented people, a number of whom have spoken to-day, entered the Service as temporary civil servants. A considerable number of them were from industry. Since most of those were, inevitably, not among the youngest of our nation, most of them after returning at the end of the war to their normal vocation, have now already reached, or are reaching, the age of retirement. The intimate personal knowledge which these temporary civil servants obtained of the methods of operation of the Civil Service is no longer available to industry in the same degree.

Similarly, the civil servants themselves have to find other ways of creating and deepening their contacts with individuals in industry to whom they may turn with the confidence and certainty that their problems and their approaches are understood. It seems to me to be vital that the knowledge of the outside world of the Service and that of the Service of the outside world, should be deep and not superficial; and that mutual respect should continue to grow on the basis of that knowledge, so that people in the Service will know where to go for advice and that both industry and the Civil Service shall have a feeling of the world in which each other lives.

This problem is touched upon in the Report. I think there are some suggestions there that may bear this indirect fruit. It has always seemed to me that Ministers and Members of Parliament collectively have the pulse of the whole country. The Civil Service, I think, has it rather less; we in private industry, I think, have it considerably less. I hope especially therefore that the new Civil Service College, if it is set up, will either have satellite establishments in the heart of agricultural or industrial counties or, and much preferably, will organise some of its longer courses on the sandwich principle, and preferably the thin sandwich principle, so that the knowledge acquired can be tested in uncloistered surroundings. Otherwise I fear that the Civil Service College will in due course become cloistered. And if that were to happen, we should be better without it.

My Lords, my last real point relates to the question of public confidence, although I feel that the suggestion that public confidence has been undermined by this Report has been overstated. I do not believe that Reports affect confidence very much. It is actions, and sometimes quite small, well-meaning, but misjudged actions, that can affect it far more; and I would rather play down the fears which have been so widely expressed this afternoon. May I recall to the attention of your Lordships some very wise words, written at the conclusion of the Crichel Down affair 14 years ago, at a time when confidence between the public and the Civil Service was threatened for, I think, the only time since the war. The words were written by a former civil servant, Sir John Woods, who acted as Chairman of a small Committee which was thought up by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, who is to speak later. This Committee reported to the Prime Minister in July 1954, before even its appointment was ever announced.

The number of the Report is Cmnd. Paper 9220 and the important paragraph is number 3: There is no defined set of rules by which the confidence of the public in the administration of Government Departments can be secured and held. Incorruptibility and efficiency are two obvious requirements. In the present case, corruption has not been in question and inefficiency has. Beyond that it is difficult to particularise. But the present case seems to us to emphasise one further factor which may be listed as self-evident, but which we regard with the highest importance. In present time the interests of the private citizens are affected to a great extent by the actions of civil servants. It is the more necessary for civil servants to bear constantly in mind that the citizen has the right to expect not only that his affairs will be dealt with effectively and expeditiously but also that his personal feelings, no less than his right as an individual, will be sympathetically and fairly considered. We think that the admitted shortcomings in this respect are the main cause of such loss of public confidence as resulted from the present case. My Lords, that is still true, and with the growth of public expenditure and inevitable intervention it is perhaps even more necessary than it was in 1954; and this must not be lost sight of in any reform. Public confidence is part of the heritage which must be preserved, along with a reputation for integrity and for disinterested devotion to duty that we entirely take for granted.

8.24 p.m.


My Lords, first I should like to pay my tribute to the speakers who made their maiden speeches this afternoon. The excellent objectivity of those speeches is an indication of the kind of contribution we may expect from them in future. We are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and to his colleagues for the industry with which they have gathered together so much information about the Civil Service in the course of their work. The Report says many things about the Administrative Class on which the whole tone of the Civil Service depends. Some are complimentary, some the reverse, but there can be no doubt at all about the impression conveyed, and quite clearly intended to be conveyed, by the first chapter; that the Administrative Class is a class of amateurs; that its members are incompetent as managers; that they are out of touch with the community, and that when they employ professionals they do not give them proper responsibilities or opportunities or authority.

My Lords, to one who for nearly thirty years has had close contact with the Civil Service, as a temporary civil servant in war and in peace, as a chairman of a public corporation and as an industrialist, the Service described in Chapter 1 is unrecognisable. The picture is untrue and unfair. It seemed so to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, with whose reservation I fully agree. The chapter is unworthy of a document of such importance and of the distinguished men who constituted the Committee. It is hard to understand how they could have brought themselves to sign it. Of course, all organisations can be improved, and large organisations, such as the Civil Service, have many things which the Civil Service itself recognises need improvement and change. But I think the Report misses the opportunity of defining the kind of Civil Service which is going to be necessary in the 1970's and beyond for two reasons: first, from a basic error of analysis, and second, from a weakness due to its terms of reference.

The basic error of analysis is tint the members of the Committee appear to see the Civil Service as something apart from the political life of the country which is embodied in Parliament and in Ministers. In their summary of recommendations they say that the Service is there to serve the community, and they give the impression that men of good will can find out in some objective manner what the community really needs and that objective tests can be found which will measure performance against those needs. They thus try to establish in the mind of the reader a comparison with the world of industry. But in industry the objective test is the market. The political community has to express its demands through Parliament, and the nearest we can get to an objective test is the result of the next election.

The Committee seem to want a Civil Service of philosopher kings who will run the country rather as the Indian Civil Service ran India before independence. But they are to be economists and sociological kings, held together by a kind of Fawley Agreement, with all jobs interchangeable and payment by results. The Report takes as its guiding principle that the nature of the job should first be determined and that the job should then be done by the man most qualified. But in its emphasis on management and on professionalism, which is largely equated with vocational training, it has failed to define the job. The most important part of the job, my Lords, is the service of Ministers who have to justify themselves to the public and to Parliament.

The Committee admires the independence of the French higher Civil Service; but that Civil Service was developed in a long period of weak, intermittent Parliamentary control. Indeed, it is a service which really is one of élitism carried to the extreme—none the worse for that, but something which the Report condemns in this country. It also speaks with approval of the publicity with which the work of the Swedish officials is carried out. But in Sweden, as the Report makes clear in its Appendix, there is virtually no Parliamentary control over a very wide range of activities which in this country are handled by Government Departments and Ministers have to answer to Parliament for them.

This leads on to the suggestion that civil servants in this country should develop more freedom, and particularly that they should be allowed to speak on matters of policy even at the risk of seeming to disagree with their Ministers. Thus, much of what is said appears to me to be a plea for a different kind of political system. Why do Ministers and officials agree that the latter should not speak on matters of policy? It is because they know that Parliament will seize on any opportunity, any indication of difference between officials and Ministers, so that they may embarrass the Government of the day.

Consider again the question of business efficiency. The essence of business efficiency is the ability to discriminate between individual cases; to choose the more popular or more efficient method. But a great deal of the work of civil servants arises because of the need to administer the Government machine in a way that will seem fair to the public. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, has just drawn our attention to a quotation from a Report by eminent civil servants making this very point. A member of the public who feels that he has been badly or unfairly treated can complain to his Member of Parliament, who then takes up the case with the Minister; and if the Member is dissatisfied with the Answer he gets, in an extreme case the whole matter can be debated on the Adjournment of the House. Rightly or wrongly, the only acceptable defence of what has been done is that it was fair between individuals; not that it was the cheapest or the most efficient way to do it. The appearance of slowness, of sticking to precedents, in keeping the files straight, and many of the other things that go under the general heading of "red tape", is all an expression, not of the incompetence and rigidity of the Civil Service, but of what our democracy requires from its democratic institutions.

Of course, my Lords, there are great areas of Governmental work which are mainly of a business kind and where management in the business sense is required. This was recognised long ago in the setting up of the Coal Board, Electricity Boards, the Air Line Corporations and so on. The Report makes only a passing reference to the possibility of hiving off new fields of this kind to existing areas, because the Committee considered the reorganisation of the structure of government to be outside their terms of reference.

It is unfortunate, however, that the members of the Committee do not seem to have drawn in their own minds, and applied to their own conclusions, the basic distinction that I have been trying to bring out between management by some agreed and objectively determinable criteria and management when the direct responsibility is to satisfy Ministers and Members of Parliament who are constantly trying to see into the future in terms of votes and elections. I do not mean that Ministers, Parliament and the electorate are indifferent to such things as efficiency and good management. Of course they are not. These are factors that have to be taken into account. But they are only two of a large number of factors which have to be weighed up by political leaders, mixed up with others of a very different kind—fairness, prestige, local or national prejudice, the emotional appeal of a particularly distressing case or area, and so on.

What then, my Lords, is the most important quality needed by the civil servant who has to administer a Department and advise a Minister? The essential quality, I would submit, is that of judgment. The quality of judgment, while it cannot in the last resort be defined, except in terms of itself—you either have it, or you do not have it—requires a mind which is both wide-ranging and exact, and a great deal of experience, which will enable the individual concerned both to identify all the relevant considerations and to weigh them properly in his own mind.

I believe that our present Civil Service has in this respect done extremely well, by the combination of choosing the best brains and subjecting them to training on the job. The problems of government are complex, and are increasingly so. Therefore, the first aim in recruitment of administrators must be to try to attract young men and women of the highest intellectual quality. The good candidate who has read a "relevant" subject should be acceptable without the need for any bias in the selection procedure. To give a positive advantage in terms of marks would, I submit, facilitate the entry of those who might fall short of the intellectual quality that the job demands. Specialised knowledge soon becomes outdated; it is no substitute for basic ability.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I think he used the words, a "candidate who has read a relevant subject". I wonder what he would say is an irrelevant subject. I am not sure whether he is not going a long way to agree with the Fulton Report on this. I am just interested.


I do not think so. For "relevant" I have taken the definition given in the Report. I cannot quote the actual paragraph, but there are a number of subjects which are described under the shorthand equivalent for "relevant". What I was trying to say was that if any candidate takes one of the subjects described as "relevant", and is good enough, he will obviously get into the Civil Service, and I think it would be wrong to give any bias in the way of extra marks in favour of people studying those subjects. What I was making clear was that the Civil Service requires young men and women of the highest intellectual quality. Preference for "relevance" would, I believe, almost certainly deter from applying many of the able candi- dates who have studied "irrelevant"—or perhaps I should say "not relevant"— subjects, and who would feel that they were unfairly handicapped.

Most of the young men and women who enter university do so without any clear view of their future careers. There is a strong tendency for young people to continue with the subject in which they do well at school. If, therefore, tie Civil Service is to be recruited largely from graduates who have read "relevant" subjects, it is, I submit, likely to force some young people to specialise while still at school—something which is quite contrary to advanced educational thought. And, even more dangerous, it will reduce the size of the field of candidates applying at a time whop the Service needs to attract as much talent as it can. Therefore, I suggest that this preference for relevance is something that should be strongly resisted, and I am happy to find myself in the good company of a minority of the Committee. I was happy, also, to hear that the noble Lords, Lord Snow and Lord Robbins, take this view, because they are much better qualified to express it than I am.

I am also strengthened in this field by the experience in my own company, which is highly orientated towards technology. Over the past five years we have recruited over 500 graduates, of whom about one quarter were Arts graduates. This greatly widened the field from which we were able to choose. I think exactly the same applies in the Civil Service.

There are many points that I should like to make on the detailed recommendations, but I will confine myself to four. I agree with the unanimous recommendation of the Committee that in future as many as possible of the administrators should be numerate, which I take to mean being reasonably at home in applied mathematics and in the nature, usage and limitations of statistics. This, more than anything else, would help them to understand the basis of the advice which they should get, and I hope will get, from specialists. The Report alleges that there is now a bias in favour of what it calls "the amateur". The remedy proposed is that there should in future be a real bias in favour of the recruitment of particular kinds of specialists. But I am sure that it would be quite disastrous for administrators to think of themselves as engineers, economists or sociologists. This would be to substitute a real bias to remedy a fancied one. I think also that the Report is right in saying that civil servants are moved about too frequently and that they should stay longer in their jobs. They should certainly stay in a post not only long enough to learn about its complexities but long enough to apply this knowledge to the job itself for a reasonable length of time.

I support the Report in its recommendation that there should be a unified career structure, although I share some of the apprehensions of the noble Lord, Lord Crook. I do not think that this would greatly alter the kind of people who become administrators. As was pointed out earlier this afternoon, movement is already much more free than the Report suggests. I think the figure is that at the beginning of 1967 rather more than 38 per cent. of the Administrative Class, including five Permanent Secretaries, started in other classes of the Service. But this unified structure would make it easier for specialists who turn out to be good administrators to move into the management side. When it comes to the point, I doubt whether a great many of the best specialists would wish to make such a move; but nearly all of them, as they reach responsible positions in their own field, would welcome, and should have, more active participation in the making of general policy decisions where their interests and skills are concerned.

In this connection, I was much struck by the Report of the Working Group on the "Brain-Drain", who recommended that industry should make much greater use of the scientific career ladder to ensure that talented technologists and scientists should be able to rise to the top in their own disciplines and not have to transfer to general management early in their careers because that is the only way in order to go up. I am sure that this was correct in the case of British industry, and I believe that if that recommendation were adopted by the Civil Service it would make the Service a happier place for specialists and would improve its decision-making.

My last point concerns the structure of Government. Civil servants have a double responsibility: to the particular job which they are doing, and to the Government and the nation; that is, to the job in its context of national policy. The Fulton Report tends to concentrate on the first of these and proposes changes which, as members of the Committee see it, would make the administration of Departments more efficient, so that each job taken alone is done better. But I think that positive policy planning and adequate advice to Ministers on general trends is a field in which Whitehall is weak; I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on this point. More attention should be given to the machinery for doing this and to the resources needed, in men and women with time to think, if it is to be better done.

The suggestion in the Report that there should be a unit for policy planning in each major Department, and that the brightest of the younger people should work there, is part of the solution, and I welcome it. But I am quite sure that the head of such a unit should not have the almost independent position in relation to his Permanent Secretary which the Fulton Report recommends. It is neither desirable nor workable. In my own experience, Permanent Secretaries do not suppress unconventional ideas coming up to them; nor do they settle all-important matters closeted alone with their Ministers. Quite the worst thing for efficiency and morale is to have any suspicion of ministerial favourites, with conversations taking place which never reach the ears of those whose work is involved. Individual policy planners, I believe, should be co-ordinated more effectively than is done now. The Treasury and the Foreign Office have some responsibility for co-ordination in their own fields, and this I believe should remain.

But the Cabinet Office is the only part of Whitehall which is truly impartial and has direct responsibility to the Cabinet as a whole. I believe that it could, and should, fulfil this all-comprehensive role. But if it is to do so it would need more staff than it has at present, and with longer periods of service. For two years, which is the present norm, gives time to learn the job, but is not long enough to do it. If the Service is to achieve the objectives laid down for it—more training, civil servants' remaining longer in the job, better performance—I am quite sure that it must have some margin in numbers: either more people or less work for the same numbers, and I would sincerely hope the latter. At present the senior ranks are grossly overworked.

I have been critical of the Report because I believe that the Committee have missed a great opportunity. This I consider was partly because they misunderstood the relationship of the Civil Service to the political environment in which it has its being, but equally because their terms of reference precluded them from considering the whole structure of government without which a proper understanding of the Civil Service the country needs is impossible. In conclusion, my Lords, I want to welcome the appointments of Sir William Armstrong and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, as the First Permanent Secretary and the first Minister of the new Department. We can be quite sure that the changes that have to be made, and which the Civil Service knows have to be made, will be done under these two men with wisdom, sympathy and objectivity.

8.48 p.m.


My Lords, I subscribe to the doctrine recently expressed in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, that an occasions such as this the Chairman of the Committee does not put himself forward as the advocate of the Committee's Report. This imposes a restraint on him and his colleagues if they are Members of the House—a double restraint. In the first place, one should not pursue the argument where it goes, however seductively the ground-bait is laid, particularly as it was in the maiden speeches to which we listened with such pleasure this afternoon. I think one can cope with that aspect of the matter. It is more difficult, and requires a greater measure of restraint, not to pursue points where one suspects that the Report. has been misread or misunderstood, or even where what it has said has plainly been forgotten. But I propose at this late hour, if for no other reason, to consult the comfort of the House and not to take up points which, however interesting, have emerged in the course of this debate to-day.

I should, however, like to say on behalf, I am sure, of my colleagues as well as myself, how much I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, not only for his own comments, which are based on a very wide experience of government, local as vied as national, in this country, but also for providing the occasion when so much that is instructive and useful has been added to the discussion in our Report on the future of the Civil Service.

Let me say first of all that all the members of the Committee were greatly encouraged by the decision of the Government to accept the main recommendations of the Report, and in particular those about the establishment of a Civil Service Department, the open structure, and the Civil Service College. We were naturally greatly pleased that our suggestion had been accepted, that the Prime Minister should retain his present responsibilities with regard to the Civil Service, and we were pleased by the appointment of the noble Lord the Leader of the House as the Minister in charge of the new Department The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has great and relevant experience of administration to bring to bear on his new work, and we think it is everyone's good fortune that Sir William Armstrong should have been chosen to be the first Permanent Head of the new Department. Taken together, these are most auspicious beginnings and offer a guarantee that the tasks ahead will be pursued with wisdom and effectiveness.

Our Report was never seen by us as a blueprint. It will obviously need creative interpretation. I am sure that its future is now under the control of those whose handling of their responsibilities will constitute an important chapter in the history of our public life.

I expect that I should say a few words about Chapter I, particularly in view of the regrettable and enforced absence from the debate, through illness, of the noble Lord, Lord Simey. He would no doubt have made clear in his speech, as he did in his dissenting note to Chapter I, that the contents of that chapter will for long be a matter of some dispute. All that I think I should say now is that we studied a great mass of evidence, written and oral, over two and a half years; that we considered carefully what we should say, and that, despite Lord Simey's arguments, we wrote Chapter I as we did. I would only ask that it should be read in the context of the Report as a whole, with an eye to the evidence that has been published, especially the contents of Volume 2, in the light of our appreciation of the virtues of the Civil Service (which is contained in Chapter I and elsewhere), and that individuals should then form their own judgments. I would add, too, a plea which I think is almost certainly superfluous: that whatever verdicts are reached by individuals about Chapter I, our recommendations should be examined on their merits as a basis of changes that have become necessary if one looks, as we felt obliged to look, to a period ahead of not less than a quarter of a century.

I said that I would not take up particular criticisms made in the Press or in other discussions that have taken place before to-day. But one line of criticism seems to me to raise an issue of general importance and to deserve a comment. It has been said that this is a "with it" report—and there have been echoes of that sentiment in this House this afternoon; that it borrowed slogans; that it borrowed stereotypes; that it borrowed ideas currently in the Press seven years ago; that it has collected the contemporary gimmicks and expedients and applied them to the Civil Service. Such a complaint is not an uncommon one these days. As a dialectical technique it has its points, and I am afraid that we too often use it. For instance, to dispose of the stirrings of the young, and their proposals for altering the present order of things, we describe their suggested remedies as "gimmicks" and think that we have disposed of the matter. But as a form of argument it neglects to take account of the existence of the formidable problems which face us, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, has so eloquently stated, and which insistently demand solutions.

We cannot evade the reality of the large, deep issues which face contemporary man and society—issues of an intractability unknown in human experience. The world has never had to cope with problems of administration under the pressure of a rate of change comparable with that of to-day, and it is an accelerating rate of change all the time. To give pejorative names to various means suggested for meeting this situation is not to dispose of the problem itself. It is there, and it must be faced. We must be substantially ahead of our times or we shall be found to be far behind them.

It may then legitimately be asked: what are the proposals in the Report that are relevant to the solution of this problem of not being out-distanced by change? At this point I must absolve my colleagues of any knowledge of, or responsibility for, what I am about to say. For myself I would venture to prophesy that the part of the Report which will do most to help the Civil Service to face the tasks falling to it in our fast-changing society over the decades ahead is the proposal for an open structure. It has been called a mere expedient, albeit a neat one, to abolish the 47 general classes and the 1,400 special departmental classes now composing the Civil Service, by substituting for them one single class. Rather than calling it an expedient I would choose to regard the open structure as fundamental to the development of our thinking over these two and a half years, and I believe that in ten years' time it will be seen to be so.

A great deal can be said about it. I am glad that it has the blessing of the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, but I will emphasise to-night only one main ground for holding this view. Most simply, it will remedy the rigidities which stand in the way of using to the best advantage all the diverse talents that are needed to solve the problems that are with us now and that lie ahead, and to solve them in time before change again overtakes us and makes the solutions obsolete.

We are not at present using our specialists—notably, for example, our scientists and our engineers, as well as they could be used. We found that to be incontrovertible. They have a contribution of their own to make within the Public Service, in meeting changes of which they have a special kind of understanding. Our proposal for the open structure is designed to remove legacies from the past which prevent us from drawing strength from these and other comparable insights and skills. For the same reason, we have not been able to draw the best out of our younger age groups. We simply cannot afford not to use youth to prepare for the next stage. They discern and understand what that stage is likely to be for only a short time themselves before they too I become outdated. I would say, from another experience, that the Vice-Chancellor of a University who, in 1963, thought himself, or was thought to be avant garde, is a fortunate man if by 1968, he can lay claim legitimately to that title any longer. We shall neglect these needs to deal with the problems of change at our peril.

That is why I, for my part believed, and I believe it still more now, that we were right to recommend the abolition of all artificial divisions, the vertical divisions, which separate different groups of experts from one another, as well as the horizontal ones, which impose an outdated and wasteful hierarchy, made outdated by social and educational change. Of course, we have been warned of the great difficulties that stand in the way of this reform. These difficulties undoubtedly exist, and I am sure they will cause trouble, but modern management disposes of the techniques and the tools to overcome them. We would indeed be shortsighted to refuse ourselves access to remedies because we are unwilling to use the tools which could bring them about, and thus ro release powers waiting to be used.

My Lords, I am in danger of doing what I asked should not be done: to emphasise one aspect of our Report and findings and thereby to distort what we hoped would be a coherent and balanced set of proposals to answer our own questions. These were: what sort of people should civil servants be in the future? How should they be educated, trained and developed in their early years? How can a structure be devised that will enable their work to be organised flexibly, as changing needs require, and foster the full development of talent of every kind? I was myself reinforced in my view of the desirability of the open structure, that it did involve job evaluation. I know that that is a term of art, but inherent in it is the possibility of building permanently into the fabric and habits of mind of the Service as a whole a system of self-evaluation and self-adaptation, which is already present but greatly needs to be reinforced if our present and our future needs are to be met.

My Lords, I have said elsewhere—and I should like to repeat here to-night— that in the course of our work our conviction grew that there are vast numbers of civil servants, of every rank, whose strong desire is to serve the public with efficiency and humanity, to serve the Government elected by the people, and to promote through their work the basic aims and objectives of the nation. Our task was to suggest means by which they would be helped to do these things. We believe, as we said in our final paragraph: We have seen that the Service has men and women with the ability, vision and ent lusiasm needed to carry our proposals through to success ". That is our tribute to the past, as well as our salute to the future.

9.5 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry I had to leave your Lordships' House after the admirable maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp—I returned only a couple of hours ago, after an unavoidable public ceremony. I apologise to those noble Lords whose speeches I have missed. I shall read them to-morrow.

Having been a civil servant for 28 years, I welcome the boldly written Report of the noble Lord, Lord Fulton and his colleagues, a Report which one might expect from someone who was once an Exhibitioner at Balliol. It was a former Master of Balliol, Doctor Benjamin Jowett, who was a member of the Northcote-Trevelyan Committee over a century earlier, and reading both Reports together, one can detect a certain continuity of thought.

There are only two points on which I wish to comment, and both are concerned with the costs involved in the implementation of the Report. The first is the adoption of a single salary scale. It has many advantages, but the result may well be an unexpected and alarming it crease in the Government's salary bill. A similar step was taken recently in Israel. The single salary scale looked all right on paper. They first carried out a job analysis; all civil servants doing work requiring similar skills should receive similar wages. But when the individual civil servants were fitted into the new scales, the civil service associations exerted such pressure that each civil servant who entered the new scales came in at least one grade higher, and sometimes more. The final additional bill i was very much higher than that expected.

On page 78 of the Report, the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and his Committee, propose further careful inquiry before carrying the proposals into effect. I hope that the additional cost of a single salary scale will be carefully calculated before the proposals are implemented.

If the increased cost is unacceptable there is an alternative way of unifying the Civil Service. All you have to do is to throw open the top positions to everyone in any scale without necessarily integrating the scales. It merely means abandoning the idea that no one can give orders to anyone paid more than himself. There are already cases of highly paid specialists working under the direction of less well paid generalists. Why not make this a common practice? In any case, it is difficult to fit some professionals into a single scale. For example, doctors, who require long years of training, come in much later than the ordinary B.A.s. They need higher initial salaries but smaller promotion steps later.

The second point also deals with costs. I do not see any provision in the Report for curbing the constant expansion of the Civil Service. More civil servants are constantly being added to carry out the additional duties imposed by new legislation. But little attention is paid in the Report to the need for the continuous pruning of existing establishments. For example, a loophole is discovered in the regulations of some departments, and that loophole is used by a large number of people. The gap is closed by legislation, and staff are appointed to enforce it. A great deal of work is involved at first, but gradually the public realise that the loophole is no longer available, and the work dies down. But the staff continues to be employed, in case the work rises again, and the result is that many civil servants are underemployed.

No department likes to admit that it has more staff than it needs. It is sure that it will need more later, and it takes so much time to get Treasury approval and recruit the staff that the excess staff is kept, even though not fully employed. Of course, a few should be kept to do spot-checks and to make sure that the rat-holes are not used; but it is no use watching all the rat-holes all the time. The rest of the staff should be deployed elsewhere. No machinery exists that I know of, or is proposed in the Fulton Report, to carry out this perpetual pruning. There are organisation-and-methods staff employed in nearly all Departments, but they act largely when they are invited. Their job is to make the existing staff more efficient or to replace it by machines, but they are not empowered to recommend the abolition of staff when the work for which the staff was appointed is no longer there. Departments hardly ever agree that the work they do is unnecessary, and it requires much greater aut4ority to battle with departmental heads.

Parliament and the public are increasingly restive at the creeping inflation of the Civil Service. In my opinion, what is needed is a high-powered Commission and an inspectorate, perhaps under the supervision of Parliament itself, to make periodic checks of the work done by every unit, man by man, register by register, form by form. This is already done in the more enterprising businesses. For example, Marks and Spencer, which had 25,000 employees, wanted to reduce their prices, but found that their overheads were increasing. They appointed a top-level committee—an internal committee, not management experts—under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the Board, the late Lord Marks, and they queried everything in the business. They cut out an immense amount of paperwork. It is very interesting that two big firms found different solutions. Lyons were one of the first firms to employ computers, and Marks and Spencer tore everything up. As a result, the latter firm reduced their staff from 25,000 to 20,000, and reduced their prices. They took considerable risks, but those risks were found to be justified.

My Lords, I submit that something of the same vigour is needed in the Civil Service. Many Civil Servants have been sent to study what happened in Marks and Spencer, but I have not noticed any great pruning resulting in the Civil Service; and this subject is not mentioned in Lord Fulton's report. The Fulton Report itself recommends additional staff. For example, it sets out on page 98 the Civil Service College. At least this additional staff should be balanced by equivalent reductions elsewhere. My noble friend the Leader of the House, who is in charge of implementing the Fulton Report, will, I hope, see that this is done. He will then have a much easier time in getting the rest of his proposals accepted by Parliament.

9.14 p.m.


My Lords, may I first of all offer my hearty congratulations to the makers of the three excellent maiden speeches we heard to-day. I must also offer an apology that I had to be absent from the House for part of the debate although I heard all except four or five speeches. I came here meaning to say a lot of things, but I think nearly all of them have been said and I do not need to say them all over again. I would, however, like to mention some of them, perhaps in rather staccato fashion. I admit I came here determined to say something about Chapter 1. As the afternoon went on I hoped it would be unnecessary to say anything. I think I must say, however, that if, in some other capacity, I had been a member of the noble Lord, Lord Fulton's, Committee I would certainly have joined the noble Lord, Lord Simey, in signing his minority report.

The other thing I want to say is that whether it is right or wrong, Chapter I certainly caused a great deal of resentment and ill feeling in the Civil Service. I hope that resentment will be largely, if not entirely, dispelled by the many true and admirable things which have been said in defence of the Civil Service. I will say no more about Chapter 1.

We have heard a great deal about the cult of the amateur, the generalist and all that. We have heard very little about the qualities of this mythical creature. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, said his chief quality was judgment. Another noble Lord emphasised quite rightly his power of communicating, particularly with Ministers, putting things down shortly and briefly in an understandable way. Another quality, I think, is that of quick analysis. In an appreciation in The Times two days ago of that great public servant the late Alexander Cadogan there was a sentence which throws a little light on this. It said: This capacity of his to do the essential minimum in any given situation, to go directly to the Lean of the matter, to the heart of a problem and decide what action was appropriate was perhaps Cadogan's outstanding characteristic. I used sometimes to think that the top administrators ought to be described as having the professionalism of the layman because they have a real skill and qualification, although it is not the same as the professionalism of a doctor or a lawyer, a chemist or an engineer, nor have they the same professional qualification as Lord Fulton and his Committee rightly wish should be studied by civil servants.

One point on recruitment. I should like to record my emphatic agreement with those who think that the chief need of the Civil Service is to be able to recruit the ablest people, and it is a mistake to have this preference for relevance This may result in recruiting into the Civil Service some very able people who have not the necessary background. They must be given that background for the particular jobs they are to do by means of courses, but that can be arranged.

May I make a point about the t-aining which is to be given to civil servants on entry into the administrative Civil Service. I gather that they are to be divided into two groups, those who are to study financial and economic matters and those who are to study social background. Whether that is the right division of duties I do not know. But one feature of the scheme I dislike very much. Apparently once a man has been trained as, say, an economist and financier, he will always have to serve in an economic or financial branch either in his own Department or another. If a man is given social training he will always serve in a social branch. That seems to be thoroughly bad. It will make it impossible for anyone to know the work of a Department as a whole; and it will mean that those trained as financiers or in the social side will never be allowed to serve in the same branch as colleagues trained in the type of work.

With regard to the new Civil Service Department, I think I have come to the conclusion it is inevitable, but that it should be recognised that if you set up this Department its relation to the Treasury would be very important, for this reason. You cannot draw a clear line between what you decide to do and how you decide to do it. If you do try to draw a very clear, and logical line, you will get endless troubles and nonsenses between the Treasury and the Civil Service Department.

I do not quite like the business which is set out in the Report about the rather arm's-length relationship which it is suggested should exist between the Treasury and the new Civil Service Department. Up till now there has been a good deal of healthy communication between the branches of the Treasury which deal with staffing and those which deal with policy. Each saw the Department from a different point of view; and a good deal was got out of that. With respect, I do not think that that problem has been sufficiently thought out. I think it requires further study.

Then I admit to being puzzled about the unified grading structure. Clearly there should be artificial barriers preventing, let us say, scientists or engineers from being promoted to administrative posts in charge of branches dealing with their own speciality; but you cannot have a service in which everybody is freely transferable to any other post. You cannot take a lawyer and put him in charge of a tax inspector's office, and you cannot take a doctor and put him in charge of a research branch in chemistry. In fact, what you really want to do, as I see it, is to remove artificial barriers to the promotion of people in the various specialised ranks to administrative posts, either administrative posts in charge of specialist departments or administrative posts in charge of Departments as a whole. That is a desirable and a right aim. But I do not see what you get out of calling it a single unified structure and trying to reduce the number of grades in the Civil Service to some arbitrary low figure.

I do not think it follows that the organisation of work of the Civil Service in, say, a tax office and a scientific research branch ought to be identical or, indeed, that every aspect of Civil Service work must be organised on the basis of the same number of grades. That may be a matter which I have not understood properly, but I think it needs a good deal further thought; otherwise it might prove to be rather a white elephant. Let it be quite clear that this business of working out a single, unified grading structure may sound nice and simple, but it will be most complicated to do and would probably cost a certain amount of money. Even if you succeeded in setting it up, there would be continuous pressures to depart from it.

There is one other point I want to make which, so far as I know, no other noble Lord has mentioned, certainly not while I have been in your Lordships' House. It is the proposal that not more than two eminent outsiders should be appointed to the Committee which is to advise the Prime Minister on senior appointments in the Civil Service. I cannot see any reason for that. Indeed, I should think that it would cause a great deal of trouble.

I would make one final remark. I have not yet paid any tribute to Lord Fulton and his Committee for the enormous amount of work they have done and the material which they have collected and which I am sure will prove the basis of a useful series of reforms. But, with respect, I rather think that their Report would have been easier to handle and more acceptable if it had been directed more to the general aims, the general directions in which the Civil Service should move from now onwards, and to the sort of changes which were required, rather than to trying to work out something which is really like a detailed blueprint for what is an extraordinary big, far-reaching, long-term scheme of reform. I think that a certain number of the criticisms that have been made to-day, with a great many of which I agree, really arise from the Committee not having resisted the temptation to deal in too much detail with such a large and comprehensive organisation as the Civil Service. Perhaps your Lordships think that that is a rather impertinent remark for me to make, but I believe I am the only living person who has served as Secretary to three Royal Commissions.

9.25 p.m.


My Lords, may I add my congratulations to the three maiden speakers, and also appologise for having had to be out of the Chamber for part of the debate. Having heard—and I shall read to-morrow those that I have missed—the speeches of the very distinguished ex-civil servants who have spoken in the debate to-day, my experience of a short spell as a temporary assistant principal is such a humble one that I think I shall forget it very quickly. And it is as an outsider, rather than as an insider, that I welcome this Report with its extraordinarily stimulating turnout of so many traditional cupboards. I welcome it particularly because some of its proposals, especially those for a unified structure, for more short-term appointments in the middle and higher grades, and for a Civil Service College, together with its emphasis on flexibility and mobility, should make it both easier and more attractive for women to go into the Civil Service.

I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, describe the open structure as being, in his opinion, the most important of the recommendations and the one that would cut down rigidity most. The Committee's reference to the Civil Service as a particularly enlightened employer of women, making no ostensible discrimination in pay or prospects, is well justified. This is not mentioned in the main Report, but in paragraph 14 of Volume 2, and all through the Report refers scrupulously to both men and women.

However, what I find surprising is that in considering a modern structure of the Civil Service, which involves social as well as organisational changes, any discussion of the changing pattern of women's working lives has been entirely omitted. To-day 95 per cent. of women can expect to marry, and on the whole they marry younger than they did. Married women comprise nearly two-thirds of the total female labour force, and nearly one-third of university places go to women, and one hopes to see this increase. I understand that when Volume 3 (which includes the survey of students) is published it will show that a larger proportion of undergraduate women than men think of the Public Service as a career, and, further, that in any class or grade in the Service women are better qualified in a formal sense than their male counterparts. The table in Volume 4, Memorandum No. 17, seems to substantiate this if one compares the number of certified appointments with the number of applications. Yet there appears to have been except during the war years, a decline, sometimes absolute and sometimes comparative, in the number of women graduates coming into the Civil Service; and in the higher grades of the administrative class, to-day two-thirds of the women are single.

I accept completely the difficulty of combining a career in the higher echelons of the Civil Service with a home and children, but I cannot believe that this is the entire answer. I feel that the Civil Service is not selling itself as a career to qualified young women. There is still too much of the "either/or" aura about it. By that I mean that in the old days either women married or, if they went into the Civil Service, it was taken by them and by other people that they would remain single. Secondly, I think that, in spite of the facilities for women to come back to the Civil Service, it is not very easy for them (I will not go into detail as it is well known, I am sure, to everybody here) to get back into the middle and the higher grades; and so far as late entrants are concerned, the present ban on late entry into the Executive Class cuts out women who in increasing numbers to-day are ready to take up a new working life once their careers as wives and mothers are no longer full-time. Many of them have fifteen to twenty years of working life ahead. This is the contemporary working pattern of women's lives to-day, and I feel fiat the unified structure would enable these women to enter the middle grades of the service and would enable a great deal of ability to be utilised that is now lying fallow through lack of opportunity.

In the magazine with which I am associated, we recently carried out a project in order to try to help women who wanted either to retrain in work that they had taken up before marriage, or to find their way back into some other sort of work. The response was extraordinary. It was quite clear that there is a great need in the 30 to 40 age group, sometimes up to 45, but the opportunities are far from sufficient and the availability of information about such opportunities for these women is even worse. Two-thirds of those who wrote to us had been trained in a career, but found it hard to find either a way in again or a way into a different career.

The majority were prepared to train or retrain. They did not expect to go in at the top, and were quite conscious that the gap in their working lives through domesticity would create difficulties and need a great deal of adjustment. But they wanted to do something which had some relevance to their ability and competence. Moreover, the fact that they had been engaged in the work of running a home and looking after children meant that they were adaptable and could cope in a practical way. They were very realistic and far more inclined to undervalue rather than to over-value themselves.

In the Government Survey which was carried out in 1965 by the then Ministry of Labour, but which has only recently been published, it was found that more than a fifth of working women and a third of those wanting to return to work were willing to train. Many women want opportunities where they are able to deal with people. We found this and we are not unique in discovering it. There must be considerable scope in the social service departments for mature women to come in and do a very useful job, once they have received some of the necessary training. As the Report points out in Volume 2, legislation creates a great deal of case work both in the industrial and in the social fields.

One of the problems to-day for the woman who wants to return to work, apart from all the other tax, domestic and insurance difficulties, is the shortage of vocational courses. In this respect I feel that the Civil Service College should be able to provide for the mature woman student refresher courses, and a range of residential, day and correspondence courses. This obviously will take some time, but it should be planned for. In order that there should not be too many geographical barriers, it might be possible in future for some of these courses to be undertaken by local authorities, so that a wider range of women would be able to use them.

One of the functions of the Civil Service College would be that of research, and we need to know a great deal more about the possibilities of part-time work. Part-time work is often regarded as a "last ditch", and people adopt a conservative attitude towards it. Although in many jobs it is quite impossible to organise work on a part-time basis, I feel that, with a positive attitude and proper organisation, very much more could be done part-time than is being done at present. Many banks, for example, organise part-time work, on the basis of a fortnight on and a fortnight off. Many firms which at first resist part-time work, find, having tried it out, that with teamwork it can succeed. Many women who start in part-time work are able to take up full-time work, once their family commitments allow them to do so.

My Lords, married women form the largest potential reserve of trained labour available to our economy. Therefore, unless they are persuaded, encouraged and helped to return to work, the investment in their education will continue to be a loss in economic terms. In human terms it means that there are a great many frustrated and unhappy women. Bearing in mind the other plans and forward-looking proposals in the Fulton Report, the Civil Service now has the opportunity to give a lead to industry and the professions, in the same way as it has given a lead by setting an admirable example in its policy of equal pay—an example which, unfortunately, has not been universally taken up.

9.35 p.m.


My Lords, may I be allowed the very briefest of interventions? I have not been able to attend the House for much of this afternoon, and I only dare to speak at all because I like to think, perhaps presumptuously, that I represent the middle class of the Civil Service; indeed, I was a member of it for over 10 years. I refer of course to the Executive grade. To-day, your Lordships have heard speeches from Ambassadors, from Permanent Under-Secretaries, from Treasury chiefs—I have never known such a collection of nabobs. May I now speak as a former cypher clerk who eventually reached the rank of H.E.O. or, perhaps, S.E.O.—I forget which? May I speak, respectfully of course, about my former bosses or super-bosses? In other words, may I speak just about paragraph 192 of the Report and nothing else?

As your Lordships know, that paragraph says that civil servants are at present organised in a large number of separate classes. The Report recommends that classes as such should be abolished. I wholeheartedly agree. If ever there were class distinctions to be found they were, or are, to be found in the Civil Service. I wonder whether your Lordships know of the snobbery based not on birth but on grade which exists, or has existed, in the Civil Service, even after the war. I wonder whether your Lordships know of the distinctions between Administrative and Executive grades. I wonder whether your Lordships know what it means to be what is called "below the salt"

I would say from experience, both in the Home Departments and the Foreign Service, that the sooner the ridiculous walls between the grades are pulled down the better it will be. They are purely arbitrary and have nothing to do with merit. A man, possibly from Winchester, passes the examinations and becomes "Admin". He remains "Admin" until his retirement or until he misconducts himself. Next in service are the Executive Officers—the "trogs"—and below them the Clerical class, only they happen to have a union which is quite powerful, and they have to be handled with kid gloves. To listen, as I have listened, to an Ambassador speaking to one of the Consuls in his own territory, or a Principal speaking to a Senior Executive Officer is, or was, an exercise in patronising insult which is in my experience unparalleled.

Finally, there is the Treasury, God bless the Treasury! We never met the Treasury, but they were there all the time ominously controlling our affairs. They were like a "Fleet in Being". They never fired their guns but they were omnipresent. We were told, "The Treasury will not like that", and that was that. Were they good, were they bad, were they clever, were they stupid? We never knew. The country never knew. They were the faceless ones, and they had the power. They still have the power. It is time that we, the people, got to know our lords and masters. It is time that the barriers which divide class from class, grade from grade, were abolished and for ever. It is time that the Civil Service ceased to be a secret service.

Personally, I welcome this Report which presumes to throw a light into our dusty although respectable corners. Knowing that my Balliol tutor, the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, was Chairman of the Committee, I had expected nothing else.

9.40 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for rising at this late hour, and, particularly, I apologise for having been absent during part of the debate for the very same reason as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was absent—an unavoidable engagement. I rise for two reasons only. The first is to say that although I cannot claim to speak officially for universities, I am quite sure that universities would be appalled if the majority view on the relevant subjects were adopted as Government policy. I think that there is a very strong feeling in universities about the careers open to talented boys or girls who come in to do history or classics. Indeed, I think the boy who came at the top in the Civil Service examinations this year is an historian. It would be intolerable if such boys and girls, who had made decisions at 18, found themselves in any way handicapped in the later three years. It really would be something that would enrage university opinion; and, whatever the reasons may have been for the majority taking that view, I hope the Government do not follow them.

The second reason I rise is partly in defence of the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, in this way. I was "needled" by the very brilliance of Lord Plowden's speech. I think it was an exceedingly brilliant speech because, while admitting that there were many things with which he agreed in the Report, nevertheless he produced so many instances which came from his great experience of industry and the Civil Service as to why change might in fact not be so desirable as the Report suggests that he made me think: What is being argued here? One of the points he made, for example, was that the Civil Service must have a reputation of fairness with the public—and, of course, one could not agree more. Naturally, this is essential. Yet if one is trying to rationalise the aircraft industry, for example, it is hopeless to try to be fair. Unavoidable decisions have to be taken between one thing and another. Often these decisions are taken mainly on grounds of efficiency, but sometimes it may be on grounds of politics.

When I tried, during this debate, to sum up my own feelings about Chapter I, which has been such a bone of contention, I found myself in agreement with the critics of Chapter I and in sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Simey. But I think that Chapter I was in fact not formulated properly. It is not amateurism in the Civil Service which is the vice. You have only to have any experience of the Cabinet offices, of a great range of Civil Service jobs—not necessarily the managerial ones—to realise how expert, how professional is their handling of this kind of business. But what does seem to me to be partly true of the Civil Service is a kind of conservatism with a small "c". This kind of conservatism is endemic in our national life. The universities in which I serve could not, in some ways, be more conservative. You have only to attend a meeting of a university Senate, when changes in academic policy—and major changes—are being discussed, to see how even the most radical of one's colleagues in a national political sense turn out to be the most conservative in terms of the politics of the academy.

This, as I say, is something which has also occurred in industry, though industry is changing, I should like to say, far more quickly than academic life. But in the Civil Service one sometimes detects this reluctance, not to look two years ahead (which it seems to me the Civil Service is brilliant at doing) but to look ten years ahead. If I might just cite some examples of this, the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, in his notable maiden speech, referred to the fact that recruitment to the Civil Service has changed, and that at the time of the Robbins Report it suddenly became apparent that we could no longer recruit a small élite, as it were, from Oxford and Cambridge, and the Executive Class from the grammar school-leavers. With all respect, I thought that that was a prognosis which might have been made a great deal earlier.

Again, turning to the other remarkable maiden speech, that by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, she referred to her apprehensions about the Civil Service College. I, too, have certain apprehensions about this, in that I hope there will not be a dissipation of resources in teaching. I hope that the Civil Service College idea will be geared in with universities and with business schools. Nevertheless, this seems to me to be one of those things which we shall find in ten years is as necessary as, for example, the demand which was made way back in the early 'fifties, that Departments should have built into them research units—a scheme which has only in recent years come into being. Much of our administration was handicapped in the 1950s, very largely due to resistance to ideas of this kind. That is the only point that I want to make. Perhaps I can make it more succinctly by saying that although I greatly admired Lord Brooke's formulation of the problem as he saw it and his view of the limitations in the Report, I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was more in line with what must be done if we are going to use this Report, which is a great and valuable document, as the springboard for the next ten years.

9.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to thank the number of noble Lords who have put an extra responsibility upon me by indicating a certain amount of trust in my capacity to act as the Minister—the day-to-day Minister, or whatever you may call it—of the new Department. Nor at the moment, if I may say so, am I going to discuss the name of the Department. I think that first it would be right—and I am sure the House would agree that it is not idle praise—to say how very impressed we have been by the three noble Lords who made maiden speeches. I must admit that I was so anxious to hear certain of them that I personally asked them to speak; and I am glad that I persuaded the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to come to make her maiden speech. It was tremendously impressive, and I really think we are frankly impressed by the civil servants in your Lordships' House—although I shall, in a moment, have something to say which I hope they will not take amiss.

May I say that what impressed me about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Helsby—a man who comes from the Department which has been particularly criticised, the then head of this great Civil Service—was the restraint and common sense that he put into his speech. His modesty also deeply impressed me. When we come to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, we know that there has always been a certain mobility both in his thinking and in his career. It was a characteristically stimulating speech. We shall wait to see what he has to say about his Royal Commission; but we are very pleased with those features. I think noble Lords may genuinely feel that they have contributed a great deal.

This brings me to the general weight of the contribution of our other civil servant Peers. We are beginning to get very near to those passionate discussions which reach their maximum heights of violence only in academic circles. Perhaps one can call this a "furor consularis" or an "odium bureaucraticum". I apologise for what is really a distasteful, if rather justified, use of monkish Latin. I do not think I have felt quite the same weight of opinion since the debate on the British Museum; and on that occasion I felt that the Trustees were almost representative of some other sovereign country. Indeed, I have been a little concerned about the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who, I was beginning to think, was showing signs of certain conservative—with a small "c" —qualities. I was relieved to find that there are still rebellious elements in him.

I should like to say one thing straight away which I think is important. I would say this specially to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. I am quite prepared in my personal experience—and I am sure my colleagues would be also—to repudiate any scurrilous, if that is the word, allegations of any general tendency of the Civil Service to sabotage Ministers. I cannot speak with personal knowledge of particular cases. It is always very difficult to say what sabotage is. It may be that some noble Lords think that the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, has been engaged in sabotage, and there may be occasions where arguments and resistance, in the eyes of some, amount to this. But I am quite sure that every Minister must, and does, accept that the Civil Service serves its masters the Ministers, if I may say so, with a fidelity which occasionally may almost pass all understanding when one thinks of what they are asked to do. I hope, therefore, that I have made the position clear. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said when challenged with some of these statements, if certain things were going on of a kind which should not be allowed to continue, the Minister in question was not fit to be a Minister. I hope, therefore, that I have got that particular point straight.

On the other hand, my position is not one which might be described as the defence counsel for Fulton. I admire the restraint of the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, in the face of a certain amount of provocation, because I thought that some noble Lords were a little less than fair and, indeed, that they fell into the very error of which they accused the Fulton Committee itself. The noble Lord, Lord Plowden, whose experience is so very wide, has also moved rapidly. He is the personification of the value of mobility to an even greater extent. I once boasted to him that I had never held a job longer than nine years—whether I shall manage nine years as a Minister is another matter. The noble Lord, Lord Plowden, averaged about six years, and there is, I think, in his person, evidence of the great value of this mobility. He suggested that the Fulton Report encouraged the notion that civil servants should be free to speak in public, even in disagreement with their Ministry. I think that if he looks at the relevant paragraph, which is paragraph 283, he will find that the Committee did not say anything of the kind.

I doubt whether most of us would disagree with the particular proposition contained in that paragraph. It is arguable that certain words or meanings were attached to Fulton, and this brings me to the fascinating subject of preference for relevance. I am going to be exceedingly careful on this. I think it important to make absolutely clear—and I agree with all those noble Lords who said it—that the first requirement for civil servants, and particularly for those who will fulfil the most important or the most difficult roles, is the quality of ability and integrity, however that may be assessed. But I wonder whether we are not making rather heavy weather of the use of the word "relevant". I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, nearly gave the case for Fulton away by saying that providing people had taken the relevant subjects at university, and if they had the other qualities, they would be suitable. We are now arguing about what is relevance. I am not sure that it does not narrow down even further as to whether Greats represent relevance.

The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, made a number of interesting points on this matter. It may be that certain scientific disciplines are more suitable than others. I remember being told always that zoologists made good personnel officers and better administrators than physicists, although it may be that the areas of uncertainty that now come into the science of physics may have produced a greater humility than perhaps we saw among some physicists some years ago. It still does not stop them from demanding the greater part of the scientific budget. It really is a question of what relevance is. There is a real danger here. After all, the selection process already takes relevance into account. This is where we are coming to almost one of the narrowest points of argument, and I do not want to be drawn too deeply into it because there are real dangers.

All I would ask is that people will take this calmly, and I would beg them to speak to their friends the Vice-Chancellors and say: "Do not rush off on this particular proposition. Read it half a dozen times, and redraft it as you may wish". Clearly the Government at some time will have to arbitrate in a way which will still ensure as the Fulton Committee recognised, that the most important thing is to recruit outstandingly able men and women whatever the subject of their university degree. This we can all agree on. I think, therefore, I will leave this particular point.


My Lords, I do not want to be contentious, but would the noble Lord elucidate the significance of the sentence in paragraph 82(a) which says: "Method I, should, as at present, be primarily a written examination. The papers candidates can offer, however, should be restricted entirely to those with a direct relevance to the problems of modern government. Of course there is Method II, but this certainly does exclude people who are specialising in subjects not relevant to the problems of modern Government.


My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I do not want to be controversial, but when the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, challenged me in my speech I was unable to refer to the particular paragraphs. If he looks at Appendix E, paragraphs 24 and 25, and paragraphs 76 and 77 of the main Report, he will find there is definitely an indication, no matter how carefully you read it, that there is going to be a preference for relevance. The noble Lord has given an assurance that he accepts that this is a difficult subject, and that what really matters is to get the greatest number of the best possible brains.


One of the charming aspects about the Fulton Committee Report (some may think it a defect) is that there is really something in it for all of us. There are particular aspects in the argument, and I admit the point about Method I. But the fact is that, to a large extent, we select for relevance. I do not know that one would regard somebody who was trained and came forward as a medical student with a medical training as automatically the sort of person you would he bringing into the general administration.

This brings us back into this terrible argument about amateurs and generalists. One of the most important requirements in a civil servant fulfilling the roles we are now talking about (and we are talking about 2,000 people and not the 450,000) is the ability to express himself clearly in the English language. I, as a Minister, find of special value the people who can draft beautifully and clearly. This also seems to be relevant. I think this illustrates the dangers of this particular controversy. I can only say that I have noted most carefully the arguments, and I am certainly at this moment not pronouncing the Government's view on this matter, because we are only too well aware of the dangers that are involved in this.

But I did feel there was a little bit of unfairness to the Fulton Committee. It may well be that they asked for it; it may well be that this was in fact a desirable thing because at certain moments a certain shock stimulates people into thinking and into facing issues which they might not otherwise be will-ling to do. As to that much maligned and so economically-run body, the Treasury, I think it is remarkable how much the Treasury manages to do with such a relatively limited staff. It may be that it has tried to do too much, but there is no doubt that it has accepted the main recommendations which the Government have already accepted and is pressing on.

I should now like—I am sorry that I was distracted, but some important points were made—to say something about the Civil Service Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and others have referred to the importance that there should be freedom from political pressure in the selection of individuals. I must admit that I think we tend to-day to be unduly fearful both of corruption and indeed of political pressures which were features of a bygone age. When I became a Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and others will know this —I took over my predecessor's Private Secretary, the staff, and even his driver. Actually, my predecessor had to persuade his driver to go on working for me. We take this for granted, and we know perfectly well that when there is a change of Government the secrets of the previous Administration are kept; and Ministers, I should have thought, would never have dreamt of questioning that in due course our civil servants who looked after us will preserve our secrets. This seems to illustrate that there is an acceptance to-day that undue political pressures will not operate in the selection of individuals.

But the Commissioners will continue—this is in direct reply to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—to be appointed by Order in Council; they will continue to make an annual report to Parliament. There is no intention at all of changing what certainly was a very important feature of the NorthcoteTrevelyan reforms. But the Committee felt (and I must say that I think this is perfect sense), and the Government accept, that in the policy of recruitment to the Service—that is, in the question of the numbers and types of people, in the standards of education appropriate for various levels, in liaison with the universities and other bodies—in these matters, as distinct from the examination and selection of individuals, there is at present some overlap between the duties of the Commission and the Treasury; and this can be removed by embodying the Commission in the new Civil Service Department and having the First Commissioner, when acting in this capacity, as one of its Deputy Secretaries. My Lords, I think we can improve on the present organisation without any sacrifice of the proper impartiality and independence. Certainly, it is the intention of the Government, and I am sure I can say this for any Government, in fact to preserve this aspect.

Now may I briefly say something on the Civil Service College. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, questioned the need for, even the practicability of, the proposed Civil Service College. I think she has underrated what has already happened in the world of training in the Service in the last four or five years. Whether we like it or not, under the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, and others, we are virtually advancing to the point where we have a college in one form or another. The Centre for Administrative studies, to which I referred, with a considerable range of improved courses for other civil servants, including some senior ones, already has provided the nucleus. And, of course, a training college, one way and another, is now something normal in all large organisations. I should find it very surprising, and there would have to be most powerful reasons, if the Civil Service should not have such a college.

The dangers which have been pointed to are ones of which the Treasury, or the new Department (as it will become) are only too well aware. It is important that it should not be too inbred. There are dangers in this, but this sort of institutional training with a large organisation must, I think, generally be accepted. It has existed for years in the Services; industry is also slowly catching up, with this sort of thing, and I can only say to those who have anxieties about this matter that those anxieties are understood, but I think we shall be able to avoid the dangers.

There has been some discussion on the machinery of Government. The noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, made some interesting remarks, but I do not think it is possible for me to comment on them to-night. Again, it is extremely relevant, and I suspect that this is likely to be a matter that the new Department will have to bear in mind. I personally would hope that the new Department will do so. This would be consistent with the thinking of the Fulton Report of only Ministers will allow them the resources and they can have the time to do some further thinking ahead—rather more years ahead than in fact they are accustomed to think. Whether this will be done by the policy planning groups or the senior policy advisers it is difficult to say.

Here again, on the relationship between the senior policy adviser and the Permanent Secretary and the Minister, I do not see any difficulty. If I may express a personal opinion—because this is one of the matters that have not been processed—it would not really occur to me that the senior policy adviser would not be working within the general framework of the Department and with the Permanent Secretary as his nominal chief. But, of course, in most Departments the relationships between Ministers and their advisers of various kinds are not constrained by the need always to go through the Permanent Secretary. But on any major issue of policy the one man whom, above all, you would expect to consult (and if you did not think he ought to be consulted you ought not to have him as your Permanent Secretary) is the Permanent Secretary. I do not see much difficulty over this, and to this extent I think this aspect of the Fulton recommendations will need a little more examination. With the right sort of Secretary and the right Minister I see no difficulty, any more than there is difficulty with the programme evaluation group which they have in the Ministry of Defence to-day, and which is a model of this.

The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, was bound to stimulate me on the question of selection. I have already made plans to visit the Civil Service Selection Board, and the noble Lord may be interested to know that I have arranged for at least one member of the Fulton Commitee to visit the R.A.F. Selection Centre at Big-gin Hill, where I think it is important to make a comparison. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Crook, that certainly it will be necessary to study more deeply certain aspects of the American system. The Fulton Committee worked at very high speed; they had not time to spend weeks visiting, but many of the Fulton recommendations will need to be looked at again, re-evaluated and retranslated. They have thrown out a great number of important recommendations, the majority of which are acceptable to the Government as they are to most of the Civil Service.

On some of the difficulties that have been raised I would say that it is certainly the intention of the Government to consider carefully what has been said, and particularly what the noble Lords, Lord Snow and Lord Robbins, have said in regard to method No. 1, and these comments will be borne in mind.

It was interesting to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, giving a new definition of generalist, and I think we ought to be thankful to the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, for providing so many topics which will be worthy of continued discussion and controversy for many months to come. Certainly, I shall not stick my neck out and attempt to give the definitions which at some stage will be necessary, although I do not doubt that they will change in subsequent years.

I would like to remark, in conclusion, that I regret I did not hear the speech of my noble friend, Lord Taylor, since my note on it says that he was rather ruder than usual. It says "Not very helpful", and that he was rather rude about it. I know him so well that I can only apologise to him for not being here to receive those remarks, because I am sure it must have spoilt the effect of what were probably some light-hearted criticisms. I made very clear at the beginning that I had a difficult speech to make, and it was too early for me to say anything very positive or very much. The object was really to open the debate.


My Lords, I should like to apologise to my noble friend for being rude. I really was sorry after I had said it. I must say I regret I said it, particularly in his absence.


My Lords, I am rather shocked to hear that he was rude! I must say something to him, however, on the subject of personnel management. There is a subject to-day which is called personnel management. It is possible to have good establishment officers and bad establishment officers. There are some who have treated the job very seriously, and in some Departments it has not been treated as seriously as it should be. There is scope for improvement, but I would not, at this stage, say that you could possibly find anyone better to do personnel management than what might be called a generalist. My own experience is that it was better to take generalists and train them as personnel managers than to take so-called trained personnel managers.

My Lords, I regret that I have spoken longer than I should. I wanted again to emphasise some of the other important aspects, particularly this question of the accounting system and its real relevance. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, made that point. In management there is not very much of this, either in a great deal of industry or, even less, in the Government service, expect that from time to time we shall be reporting on this matter. I am grateful once more to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, for introducing this subject, and I can assure noble Lords who may be concerned for the Civil Service which they have served so well that some of their fears are unjustified, and perhaps in a few months' time they will find that to be so.

10.14 p.m.


My Lords, at the outset of our proceedings I dared to hope that by devoting a day to a discussion of the Civil Service and the Fulton Report we might serve a public need. I never dared to dream that we should have so penetrating and so memorable a debate upon the public service. For my part, I can but thank with all my heart the very many Members of your Lordships' House who have contributed to the debate, among them men most distinguished in the service of our country.

The Leader of the House has developed the debate with two speeches from the Government Front Bench, and I hope that reciprocally the debate may help him to develop Government thinking. In the light of it all, he may feel that the Prime Minister went too tar in his announcement on June 26 in stating that the Report would stand comparison with the historic Northcote-Trevelyan Report of more than a century ago. But the noble Lord will have noted that a good many of the practical recommendations of the Committee have received widespread endorsement to-day. There has been virtual unanimity here that the tone of the Report was less than fully fait to the Civil Service; and yet let us conceive it possible that the tone of our debate, taken as a whole, may have been less than fair to the Fulton Report.

There are four speeches which I want to claim my right to mention. The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, gave us a speech which we shall long remember for the singular freshness of its thought and language and delivery. Then there was the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, to whom we should all feel most particularly indebted for his knowledge, profound as well as detailed of the present day civil service and of its post-war history. We also had the brilliant speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, of whom I found myself thinking, not for the first time, that if only she had not been our first woman Permanent Secretary she might have been our first woman Prime Minister, though she would have found it hard to settle in any Political Party, and I doubt whether she has any regrets. And, fourthly, I would refer to the admirable self-restraint of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and his faultless Parliamentary propriety. It was indeed courageous of him to speak as he did towards the end of a debate charged with many criticisms of the tone of his Committee's work. He was absolutely right to drive home upon us that we must all be addressing ourselves not to what has happened in the last twenty years but to what is going to happen in the next twenty, with the rate of change in the world growing faster every day. Only by keenness of mind and flexibility of mind shall we keep up with the rate of change.

My Lords, to me an outstanding feature of this debate has been its unequivocal assertion of the ultimate value of fineness of mind and the exposure of iconoclasm dressed up as advanced thinking. I have never wavered in my belief that we possess the best Civil Service in the world, and that it is cnly by recruiting the best brains to it, and by seeking out and applying to it the best techniques, that we shall keep it so. I wonder whether we can all agree for tonight to leave it at that. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, with drawn.