Skip to main content

Staff

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 16 November 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations how many former members of the Colonial Overseas Service are at present on the staff of the Commonwealth Relations Office; what posts they hold; and where they are serving.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that illuminating reply, and while being convinced that when I read it I shall find it no less illuminating, may I ask whether he concedes that there is a very real need in our diplomatic missions of men experienced in African affairs? Is he not aware that I have recently received a letter from a distinguished former Colonial Governor, who retired last year, in which he said that it is as difficult to transfer from the Colonial Service to the Commonwealth Relations Office as it was for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle? Will my right hon. Friend not consider arranging with his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary and his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary for a joint committee to be set up to conserve what is an irreplaceable asset, namely, men of experience in African affairs who are at present serving overseas?

I said that I have circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT a lot of figures for which my hon. Friend asked. In the administrative class, 34 officials out of about 160, that is, about one-fifth, were drawn from the Colonial, India or Burma Services. But if you would allow me, Mr. Speaker, I should like to take this opportunity to reply—because it is closely connected with this series of questions—to the remarks made by my hon. Friend in a speech the other day in the House which cast the gravest aspersions on the experience and quality of the staff of the Commonwealth Relations Office. I should like to take this opportunity to inform him that his remarks have been deeply resented by the Service, and to tell him that I have the highest confidence in the capabilities of those serving at home and overseas in the service of my Department.

Following is the detailed statement:

Excluding clerical and subordinate staff, there are 33 former members of the Colonial Overseas Service at present on the staff of the Commonwealth Relations Office.

Details are as follows:

  • High Commissioner in Cyprus.
  • 6 First Secretaries (Principals) in Calcutta, Dacca, Karachi, the Maldives, Nicosia and Ottawa.
  • 14 First Secretaries (Principals) in the Commonwealth Relations Office.
  • 11 First Secretaries (Information) in Accra, Calcutta (2), Canberra, Chittagong, Delhi, Johannesburg, Madras, Nicosia, Penang and Salisbury.
  • 1 Second Secretary (Information) in Bombay.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations why it is necessary for senior members of the Colonial Overseas Service to sit for a written examination in order to transfer to the staff of the Commonwealth Relations Office.

The Commonwealth Relations Office is part of the Home Civil Service, and recruitment to its permanent and established staff, from whatever source, is therefore conducted through the Civil Service Commission who carry out such tests for this purpose as they consider necessary to maintain the accepted standards for the grades concerned. For posts which involve an appreciable amount of written work, the Commission normally include written tests of a general, non-academic character.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that there must be records and confidential reports available about members of the Overseas Service which should be at least an adequate substitute for written examination? Is he aware of the case of the Director of Information Services in a territory, which is at present a dependent territory, who has served with great distinction, who has applied to join the Commonwealth Relations Office Information Service and has been told that if he wants to do this he must return home at his own expense and take a written examination?

All I would say is that the qualifications for the Colonial Service and the qualifications for possible work in the Commonwealth Relations Office in London are not entirely the same. As I have explained, the Commonwealth Relations Office is part of the Home Civil Service, and anybody who gets into the Service may go to the Treasury or the Inland Revenue, or wherever it may be. I think that it would be quite unreasonable not to ask for some assurance that these men, however good their service in Africa may have been, have qualifications for the Home Civil Service as a whole.