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Departmental Employee (Background)

Volume 78: debated on Wednesday 1 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the latest position regarding the civil servant in his Department whose Nazi background has been looked into.

The inquiries undertaken by the Department have revealed no grounds for disciplinary action against this officer.

Is it not strange that someone with such a known notorious background should have been taken on by the Department in the first place? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while someone who, for example, is a supporter of CND might be described by those who do the vetting or interviewing as a subversive, the person who is the subject of my question is a civil servant and, as the right hon. Gentleman has just said, will continue in that job?

The hon. Gentleman is making a serious mistake in the line of his questioning. He should understand that two problems may arise in relation to the political views and activities of a civil servant or a potential civil servant. One is whether he or she may or may not be a subversive—that is, a potential traitor to this country.

Exactly, that is one consideration that may apply. A second and broader consideration is that, whatever political views an official may hold, he is, within the limits of certain ranks of the Civil Service, debarred from active participation in national politics or from intervening publicly in matters of national, partisan controversy. This gentleman fell into neither of those categories.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Minister for Trade told me in a letter that the Government confirmed

"that the Civil Servant in question attended meetings at a London hotel earlier this year regarding the formation of a new Right-wing organisation."
However, the view is taken by the Government that since the meetings to form this new Right-wing organisation were held in private, no rules were broken. Is it seriously the Government's position that, provided political activity does not take place in public, it is permitted under the rules?

There is nothing to prevent an official holding views or going to a meeting to listen to those who hold similar views or discussing his views in private. If we went to the extent of saying that the mere expression of an unpopular political view in private should be cause for dismissal from the Civil Service, we should be going a long way down a road which I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman and most of us would regret. I find the views of extremist Socialists, whether they are National Socialists or any other kind, extremely displeasing——

—but that should not give one the right to dismiss a person for holding such views.