To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many former civil servants have taken up employment with companies in a contractual relationship with Her Majesty's Government in the last five years.
I am glad to report that the system for dealing with these cases continues to work well. Comprehensive information is not available centrally. However, applications which have been referred by Departments to the Cabinet Office in accordance with the business appointment rules show that, between 1983 and 1987, 519 civil servants have sought approval to join companies with which they had had contractual contact.
Is the Minister not aware of the concern that exists about the number of people leaving the Civil Service to do precisely what he has just described? It seems that in the Ministry of Defence a large number of contracts are resulting in the British taxpayer being ripped off by private contractors. Would it not be better for the Ministry to prohibit civil servants from going to work for any organisation that has had any contractual relationship with the Government for a period of at least 10 years?
If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman takes a very limited view, although not necessarily a very surprising one. Just as business men have a contribution to make in periods of secondment to the Civil Service, so civil servants have a contribution to make to the outside world. All that matters is that they should take up jobs that do not conflict with their previous appointment. That is why adequate procedures have been provided to deal with the matter, through the Diamond committee.