HL Deb 13 December 1983 vol 446 cc98-9

2.45 p.m.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the position regarding the recruitment of graduates as administration trainees in the Civil Service.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office, and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)

My Lords, not altogether. Although nearly twice as many administration trainees have been recruited this year compared with 1982, a shortfall remains. The Civil Service Commissioners are, however, accelerating the selection process, strengthening their graduate liaison arrangements and publicising the competition more widely, in order to improve the position.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply. Does he agree that the management of change, and in this case of contraction, calls for special skills and qualities of leadership? If graduates of the required potential are not coming forward in sufficient numbers to achieve the Government's objectives, what is being done to identify the reasons and to put things right?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, there are two points at issue here. Part of the shortfall, in spite of the improvement I mentioned, is, I think, welcome to this degree: that it is a product of increasingly keen competition among employers for able graduates as the economic position is improving. Of course, we would not want it to be otherwise. In terms of our reponse, we are, of course, implementing Sir Alec Atkinson's report, which was received earlier this year and which is designed to gain wider publicity for the scheme and to improve our liaison in universities, particularly in the newer universities.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, can the noble Earl say how many graduates have been recruited from the polytechnics? They produce graduates as well as the universities.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, for that correction. In fact Sir Alec Atkinson did recommend vigorous efforts at the polytechnics, and that is taking place.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, is one factor in this the low morale of the Civil Service generally, and the fact that the reputation, spirit and idea of public service have been denigrated so much in the last two or three years by the present Government? Is not that having an effect upon recruitment?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I think that is a most extraordinary suggestion. The Government enormously value the contribution of civil servants and admire their professionalism. That the Government should be putting its own house in order in terms of manpower and other costs is in no way a denigration of the efforts of those who work in the Civil Service.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he can give us the percentage of female graduates included in graduate recruitment?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, as I am sure the noble Baroness will be aware, there is no bias against women in the selection process. My advice is that over the last decade women have filled something like one-third of the administration traineee vacancies. This proportion is roughly in line with the proportion that women form of newly qualified graduates generally, and therefore the position is equitable, though we should of course like to see it improve.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, if the Government have such a very high opinion of civil servants, why are they at present engaged in the wholesale sacking of them?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, would care to parade in front of me a lot of sacked civil servants I shall be delighted to deal with the issue. I think he will find them hard to find.