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Civil Service (Political Activities)

Volume 467: debated on Wednesday 13 July 1949

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62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many civil servants and of which categories will be deprived of their political and civil rights on account of their official positions, and how many will have them restored, as a result of the recent report of the Masterman Committee.

The Government's acceptance of the Masterman Report involves no new limitations upon the extent to which civil servants may participate in political activities. Some 450,000 members of the office grades will remain subject to the rules which have existed for many years. Complete political freedom will be granted for the first time to about 450,000 more members of the minor and manipulative and industrial classes.

In view of the high regard in which these political rights are held in this country can my right hon. Friend assure the House that no person will be deprived of them unless it has been established beyond question that it is in the public interest for that to be done?

I think I have made the position clear in the fairly lengthy reply which I have given.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the rules to which he refers, covering some 450,000 civil servants, have, in many Government Departments, been honoured for a long time more in the breach than in the observance in respect of many positions? Is it my right hon. Friend's intention that this extremely sensible arrangement should be allowed to continue?

I agree that the code has, in some of its aspects been somewhat obscure. The Report now defines it with greater clarity.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is the desire of Members, on this side of the House at least, that the fullest possible political freedom should be given to every member of the Civil Service, and that he should discuss the matter further with the associations concerned?

Is this Report to be implemented merely by Treasury minute, or will it necessitate an order being brought to the House, which will give us an opportunity to debate the whole question?

I think it will be done by Treasury minute. Whether or not there will be a Debate on it is not for me to say.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many civil servants who are at present doing valuable public work, particularly in municipal government, will have to give it up if these recommendations are literally applied? Is that my right hon. Friend's intention, and if so, will he allow the House to debate the matter before action is taken?

Is it not anomalous that junior clerical grades, for example, should be refused political freedom? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the regulations, so far as those grades are concerned, will not be more strictly applied, as a result of the attention which this Report has given to them, than has been the case in recent years?

Civil servants have never enjoyed the full freedom in this direction which other citizens have enjoyed—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—for obvious reasons. It depends, to a certain extent, upon the post which the person holds.