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Ministry's Staff

Volume 446: debated on Tuesday 27 January 1948

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2.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is aware that former employees of approved societies who are now employed by his Ministry find that they are prevented from continuing their political party activities such as accepting nomination to office in political parties, or contesting local council elections; and if he will make a statement as to the rights of these employees in this respect.

The existing rules debar a member of the Civil Service from identifying himself prominently with a political party, and this would include accepting office of the kind referred to. As regards membership of local councils, I should wish to allow members of the staff to take part in such activities; so far as is consistent with these rules and with the requirements of their official duties. I should add that, as the Lord President of the Council said on 22nd January in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Peter Freeman), the question of modifying the present code governing the political and civic activities of civil servants has been raised by the Staff Side of the National Whitley Council, and discussions are pending.

Will civil servants be eligible to stand as party candidates at local elections?

I do not think I ought to add anything to the very careful words which I used in my answer. We shall have to await the results of the discussions now going on with the National Whitley Council before taking any other action.

Can the Minister assure us that, whatever the outcome of the discussions with the National Whitley Council may be, it is not his intention that servants of his Ministry should be differently or worse situated as compared with those of any other Ministry?

May I ask whether these former employees of approved societies had it made quite clear to them when they were transferred that they would have to forfeit certain political privileges?

They applied for transfer to my Ministry, and, therefore, to the Civil Service. The rules governing the Civil Service are well within the knowledge of the persons who applied.

Is it a fact that, in the case of these men who applied, they were given no instructions at all as regards political activities?

The question of political activities is dealt with under the code referred to, which is now under discussion by the National Whitley Council. As far as membership of local authorities is concerned, it is our desire that they should serve, so far as is consistent with their duties.

7.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, in connection with the overtures being made to the staffs of friendly societies to enter the service of the Ministry of National Insurance suggesting that the future prospects of State employment offer advantages not available in private societies, he will issue instructions that staff recruitment shall have regard to the maintenance of the efficiency of institutions whose benevolent work has extended over a long period of time.

The terms on which these appointments are offered, including a statement of the rates of salary and other prospects in the Civil Service, were settled in accordance with the recommendations of a Committee on which the societies were fully represented. I have no evidence that the future efficiency of the societies is being prejudiced, and, in any event, I must carry out my pledge to entertain applications from all qualified candidates.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take care that the efficiency of the voluntary societies outside the National insurance Scheme will not be prejudiced by taking their servants away from them?

I hope they will not be prejudiced, but the hon. Member will realise that there is a definite undertaking in the Act that those members of approved societies employed mainly or wholly on this work are entitled to make application to come over to the Ministry.