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Management Development

Volume 124: debated on Monday 14 December 1987

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91.

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what progress is being made in the improvement of management development in the Civil Service.

Since 1984 we have set up a framework of management development programmes, which include staff at all levels from executive officer to grade 3, and good progress is being made.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he indicate the Government's priorities in providing management development courses for staff at appropriate grades within the Civil Service?

My hon. Friend is right. Training in the Civil Service is a matter of the highest importance if we are to meet the requirements of good value for money, the highest possible standards of professionalism—which we have — and good quality service to the public. The courses, including courses at a very senior level, range from the new top management programme—a six-week course — to the senior management development programme, and the management development programme itself, for more junior staff. All those courses, and many others, are designed to ensure that we have the highest possible standards within our service.

Will the Minister give an assurance that no one involved in the management stucture of civil servants will be involved in training people so that they can be beaten until they beg for mercy? Will there be any way in which anyone in the Civil Service at management level will be able to establish whether a chief constable is sane?

My responsibilities are for the Civil Service, and I propose to maintain my responsibility for that and go no wider.

As gamekeepers undoubtedly make the best poachers, would it not be a good idea if we could ballot the Civil Servants in the House, so that a given number of hon. Members could use the services of an expert civil servant for a year, to goad Ministers?

My hon. Friend is in a very innovative mood today, and I owe it to him to consider carefully what he has said.

Has the Minister read the address by Sir Robert Armstrong to the conference of the Royal Institute of Public Administration last week, saying how unhappy he was with the level of morale in the Civil Service? What point is there in spending money on management development when Ministers so often villify the Civil Service and take as their main aim its reduction in numbers?

It is wrong for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that Ministers villify the Civil Service. The fact that there has been a reduction in the numbers of civil servants by about 18 per cent. is not a criticism by Ministers of the Civil Service, but follows from a requirement that we rightly set ourselves in 1979, when we said that the Civil Service was too large and that we needed to reduce Government functions. Side by side with increased efficiency in the Civil Service we said that numbers should be reduced. That is not a reflection on the calibre of the Civil Service, which is a slimmed-down and professional service.

Is management development influenced by pay, and are the rates of pay for civil servants now the same as those in the private sector for equal work?

The hon. Gentleman knows that we are now introducing into the Civil Service a much more flexible pay scheme which takes into account the need to ensure adequate recruitment, retention and motivation of civil servants. To that end, we have a more flexible system which allows us to provide more for specialist groups who otherwise may leave the service. That flexible system is leading to better results.