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Volume 116: debated on Monday 11 May 1987

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asked the Minister for the Civil Service what measures he is taking to ensure the adequacy of recruitment methods of civil servants for the 21st century.

Methods of recruitment to the Civil Service are revised as the tasks required of civil servants and the skills and qualities they need change. Within the Civil Service Commission, the recruitment research unit is actively engaged in reviewing the effectiveness of existing procedures and developing improved procedures. Underlying these changes is a continuing commitment to the fundamentals of fair and open competition and selection on merit.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. However, is he aware that concern has been expressed about bias in Civil Service recruitment procedures? Can my right lion. Friend assure the House that there is no bias—for example, that the Oxbridge syndrome does not come into play? Can he give us an absolute assurance that that does not apply to what I believe is known as the fast track?

I think that the commission goes out of its way to get across to all sections of the community the opportunities available in the Civil Service. On my hon. Friend's last question, he will be interested to note that the proportion of Oxbridge graduates who enter the highflying part of the Civil Service decreased from 75 per cent. in 1982 to 46 per cent. in 1986. That indicates that we are getting an intake of civil servants from a much wider background than previously.

Is the Minister aware that, to ensure good recruitment to the Civil Service, the Government must appear to be a good employer? Is he further aware that after eight years of mismanagement including the dismantling of the pay research unit, low pay and under-staffing, and capped by the abolition of trade union rights at GCHQ, the Government cannot convince anyone that they will be a good employer of civil servants in future? Is that not a further reason for the rejection of the Government at the polls on 11 June?

I think that the hon. Lady is indulging in a little wishful thinking. Our record of managing the Civil Service is remarkable. There has been a great improvement in the efficiency and professionalism of the service. Its staff has been reduced to fewer than 600,000, but it is a streamlined, dedicated and loyal service.[Interruption.]