Skip to main content

Civil Service

Volume 167: debated on Monday 12 February 1990

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

Women Civil Servants


To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many women are employed in the Civil Service as a whole; and what proportion this is of the total so employed.

There are 265,000 women in the Civil Service. That constitutes 45 per cent. of all staff.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) and I believe in the innate superiority of women? Do not the figures given by my right hon. Friend show that no rebuke should be delivered to the Minister for the Civil Service? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that those figures could equally well have been achieved without the equal opportunities legislation?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is right to pay tribute to the ability of women in the Civil Service as much as anywhere else. Given the total size of the Civil Service, it is right and good that nearly half our civil servants are women. However, at the senior levels—in the top grades—only 6 per cent. are women. But an increasing number of women are coming in under the high fliers scheme—just under 50 per cent. are now recruited from that scheme. I am sure that in the 1990s, with full equality of opportunity—I believe that that is what my hon. Friend is stressing as so important—more women will come to the top.



To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what recent representations he has received from Nottinghamshire regarding matters within his responsibilities.

I thank the Minister and his colleagues for their intervention in the relocation of the Inland Revenue to Nottingham. Will the Minister commend the efforts of the county council in securing that relocation, particularly the chairman of its finance committee, Councillor Paddy Tipping? Will the right hon. Gentleman keep an eye on liaison and co-ordination between Government Departments and public bodies during relocations so that the difficulties that arose in this instance between British Rail, the Inland Revenue and landholdings do not recur?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks and glad that a sizeable number of civil servants are moving to the Nottingham area—including not just the Inland Revenue, with more than 2,000, but the Driving Standards Agency headquarters which is to open in, I think, April with about 100 staff. I note what the hon. Gentleman says and I am glad that the pace of relocation from the south-east to other areas is quickening, and that larger numbers of civil servants are moving to other areas.

Senior Professionals (Secondment)


To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what further steps he is taking to encourage the secondment into the Civil Service of industrialists and other senior professionals.

More exchanges have taken place in recent years and the Government are determined to continue the upward trend.

Why, of the 12 competitions held for the agencies set up by the Government, has only one outsider been appointed, Mr. David Beeton, to the Royal Historic Palaces Agency? There are also two directors-designate who will come from outside the Civil Service. Conversely, how many of the First Division Association have been seconded to industry?

I cannot give a precise answer on the latter point. In the past 10 years the number of exchanges between the Civil Service and the private sector and commerce has almost doubled. In addition, there have been 500 exchanges between the Government and the non-commercial sector, including local government. We want to encourage that. The Government's policy is to encourage open competitions for the appointment of chief executives of agencies. We want to select people on their merit and get the best possible people to serve in those posts. There have been a number of open competitions but, as my hon. Friend said, only one non-civil servant been selected for the job. That does not mean that others may not be selected in the future.

Trade Unions


To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the Civil Service trade unions; and what subjects were discussed.


To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met trade union representatives from the Civil Service; and what issues were discussed.

I met members of the National Union of Civil and Public Servants on 29 January to discuss physical security of Government establishments.

When the Minister next meets union representatives, will he give them a guarantee that those agencies which there is no immediate intention to privatise will remain in place for a minimum of five years to provide both stability and prospects for those working in them?

Although I do not know whether it is right or wrong to set a time scale—I shall reflect on that point—the Government's policy is clear. Our first priority is to assess whether a service of Government is better suited to privatisation. If the Government decide that that is not so, the next option is to consider whether it should be an agency. It must be assumed that, in most circumstances, it will remain an agency for the foreseeable future. However, that does not preclude privatisation in the longer term.

Is the Minister aware of the huge uncertainty and concern of people who are notified that their jobs are to disappear in Southend and be transferred to Liverpool or who are told that their services are being privatised? Does the Minister agree that it would be helpful and in the interests of good industrial relations if everyone so affected was issued with a sheet of paper explaining what will happen to their pension rights and security of employment and what employment rights they have? Should not the Government set an example to private employers to tell employees about their rights and obligations if their jobs are affected because of Government policy?

I am very much aware that a considerable number of officials—particularly in Customs and Excise—work in my hon. Friend's constituency. I will convey to my noble Friend the Paymaster-General, who is in charge of relocation policies some of my hon. Friend's views. I shall reflect carefully on his points. Several movements are taking place in Customs and Excise. Some headquarters are being moved out of London to Southend, and a greater number of staff are moving to areas outside the south-east. As my hon. Friend knows, that is part of the Government's policy to encourage relocation wherever possible.

When the Minister reflects on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) will he also reflect on the advisability of giving a guarantee to all civil servants who find themselves in agencies that are liable to be privatised that they will be retained in the Civil Service by being transferred to another part of it?

The hon. Gentleman always misunderstands what the agency system is about. If the Government decide to establish an agency rather than privatise an organisation, the officials in that agency remain part of the Civil Service. There is no question of a change in their status. The hon. Gentleman's question is misleading; I am glad to have this chance to reaffirm the position.

When my right hon. Friend last heard from the Civil Service unions, were they able to congratulate him on the first high promotion of a female part-time civil servant, and, secondly, on the introduction of two days' paternity leave for civil servants whose wives have babies?

I am glad to tell my hon. Friend that the number of women part-timers in the Civil Service has risen to 12 per cent. of the complement. The fact that we have much more flexible employment policies and encourage part-timers is attracting more able women to serve. Over the past few years I have been surrounded by very able female advisers, many of whom have been part-timers.


To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what recent meetings he has had with Civil Service trade unions; and what items were discussed.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher).

As the Minister has been discussing the privatisation of parts of the Civil Service, would it not be a good idea if the Government, for the first time, allowed the Civil Service unions to hold a ballot on whether their members want to take part in a privatisation scheme?

The hon. Gentleman must agree that the most important factor is how whatever service we are considering can be most effectively managed for the country. If the Government take the view that it can be more effectively managed through privatisation, that is one road. If the hon. Gentleman wants a better use of our resources—it is taxpayers' money—he will accept that the other route to more effective management is to create agencies. Both routes are based on the criteria of good value for money and the best use of resources.