HC Deb 27 January 1998 vol 305 cc170-1W
Mr. Robert McCartney

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to her answer of 1 December 1997,Official Report, columns 8–9, if she will make a statement on the rates of growth in Catholic and Protestant representation in the Northern Ireland Civil Service; and what steps she is taking in regard to future trends in representation. [23692]

Mr. Paul Murphy

The Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) aims to create a position where Protestants and Roman Catholics are fairly represented at all levels in the organisation. There is a strong evidence of compositional change in the NICS-workforce since monitoring was introduced in 1985. At a macro level Protestants now represent 59.2 per cent. of the Non-Industrial Service and Roman Catholics 40.8 per cent. compared with 64.3 per cent. and 35.7 per cent. in 1985. Protestants and Roman Catholics are now fairly represented among a significant proportion of the Services' occupational groups and at most grade levels up to around Staff Officer and equivalent levels, which account for some 87 per cent. of the total workforce. Roman Catholic under-representation remains evident among the senior levels of the various occupational groups and is most apparent at Grade 5 level and above (i.e. the Senior Civil Service).

The Service has taken a number of steps within the law designed to achieve a more balanced workforce at the more senior levels, whilst adhering strictly to the merit principle in both its recruitment and internal promotion practices. These include the use of positive action advertising in appropriate circumstances and the removal of various internal barriers to promotion to encourage a better flow of staff from lower to higher grades within and between Departments.

Further detailed information on significant equal opportunity developments, trends in composition, affirmative action measures and goals and timetables can be found in the Department of Finance and Personnel's "Sixth Report of the Equal Opportunities Unit" which was published on 31 October 1997, copies of which are available in the Library.