§ 12.3 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Anderson)
I beg to move,That this House approves the proposals contained in Command Paper No. 6567 for recruitment to established posts in the Civil Service during the reconstruction period.The House will, no doubt, remember that in February last I made a short statement indicating in general terms the principles which, in the view of the Government, should be followed in regard to post-war recruitment to the Civil Service. I then made it clear that the Government contemplated restoring at the earliest possible date the normal system of recruitment for accruing vacancies, but that vacancies which had accumulated during the war, for which there has been no recruitment on a permanent basis, would be dealt with under special arrangements. I made it clear that, in the view of the Government, these arrangements should be such as to provide generous treatment for men who had served in the Armed Forces during the war, but that there would also be some special provision for those who had served during the war in temporary capacities in the Civil Departments. I ended my statement by saying that the Government proposed to remit the matter for further study within the limits indicated in my statement by the National Whitley Council for the Civil Service, or rather by a Special Committee of that body.
As I think the House knows, the National Whitley Council for the Civil Service was set up, following the recommendations of the Committee presided over by the late Mr. Whitley, which applied over a wide field, to fulfil for the Civil Service certain functions which were clearly laid down, and which did include specifically a study of the problems of recruitment to the Civil Service. It was, therefore, perfectly natural that that body, which on the one side is representative of the Government Departments in their employing capacity and on the other side is very widely representative of the various staff organisations which have been recognised by the Government for purposes of negotiation, should have been entrusted with this particular task. I am now in the position of commending to the House and to Parliament the results of the work which has been carried out by the 1377 Special Committee of the National Whitley Council. Before I come to the substance of the Report, I ought perhaps to make this clear, that, as was to be expected, following the statement which I had made on behalf of the Government, they put suggestions of their own, which were submitted through the official side in the ordinary course, for consideration by the Committee, and at all stages during that consideration the Government were in touch with their own representatives on the Committee. So that this plan although it is a plan framed after close discussion by the Committee of the Whitley Council, does in fact embody proposals which have been adopted with the full approval of the Government, and which I am in a position to-day to commend to the favourable consideration of the House of Commons.
Let me proceed to deal with the main features of the plan embodied in this White Paper. There are two or three matters of principle which should be clearly understood before one proceeds to deal with the details. First, as will be seen, it is contemplated that all the vacancies which have arisen during the period of the war in the permanent establishments, whether by death, retirement or in any other way, with the addition of any posts that may have been added to the establishment during that period, should be reserved, subject to certain points to which I will refer later, for competition between those persons who have been prevented by reasons directly connected with the war from taking advantage of opportunities that would otherwise have been open to them to compete for positions in His Majesty's Civil Service. There will, therefore, be that definite reservation of accrued vacancies for competition under special arrangements by those persons, male and female, whom I have described. Let me add that, in order to ensure that there shall be fair treatment as between one and another, arrangements will be made, in connection with the special competitions that will be held, to spread those accrued vacancies over a sufficient period to ensure, as far as is humanly possible, that candidates whose discharge from the Army has been of necessity deferred should not be at any disadvantage, as compared with those who are discharged in the earlier period after the termination of hostilities.
1378 The next point of principle that should be clearly appreciated, is that it is the intention of the Government, as I indicated in my earlier statement, that concurrently with the special competition for the accrued vacancies there should be resumed normal competition for accruing vacancies, so that the two systems will, over a term of years, be running side by side. The normal competitions for the accruing vacancies will be conducted subject to the ordinary age limits and candidates coming forward in the ordinary course from school, college and university, will, as before the war, be free to compete for those vacancies. It is our deliberate intention to avoid on this occasion what happened after the last war, when, for quite a considerable period after the termination of hostilities, vacancies in permanent establishments were allowed to remain unfilled, being blocked by people serving in a temporary capacity.
We intend now to proceed in the manner I have described over a term of years, and, in order to have fair treatment as between man and man, and man and woman, we intend to fill permanently, to the fullest extent possible, vacancies on the permanent establishments, thereby reducing to an absolute minimum the posts which may still have to be kept filled for a time by temporary civil servants. We shall, in that way, avoid to a large extent, though probably it cannot be avoided altogether, the difficult problem that arose after the last war, in connection with the claims that naturally develop on the part of persons who have been recruited on no particular principle, but have served for long periods in a temporary capacity and have legitimate ground for complaint if they are got rid of, without being afforded proper opportunity of obtaining permanent positions.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Can my right hon. Friend clear up one point? I have received correspondence from many people who passed the examination to enter the Civil Service in various Departments but who were prevented from taking up their posts by the exigencies of military service, on joining the Forces. Are their places being kept open for them until military service ends?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I should think that that was so, certainly, but I was not aware of the type of case to which my 1379 hon. Friend has referred. Certainly, it is important that we should see that no injustice is done, if there be any such cases. I am not sure whether he means people who passed examinations before the war but had not been assigned to vacancies. If they will not be given appointments on the strength of the examinations which they have already passed they certainly ought to have facilities for competing in the special competition to be held now; but I will look into that point.
As regards the details of the special recruitment scheme, I think it will be convenient for me to touch on certain points at the outset of this Debate. The idea is that the age-limits for the special competition should be the normal limits for the various classes of appointments with, added to those limits, the number of years of the war during which persons have been prevented from competing. That is the first principle that is to be applied—the age limits will be extended to cover the period of the war during which the potential candidates had no opportunity to compete. But the scheme goes a little further than that, because the Committee have suggested that in view of the disturbance caused by the war to those who had just entered upon a career not in the Civil Service, it would be reasonable that some facilities should be afforded to them—the course of their lives having been diverted in this way—to change their ideas as to their future career and offer themselves for competition in the Service. There must be, obviously, a limit to the extent to which effect can be given to that principle, but the proposal of the Committee has been met, in the plan before the House, by extending the age limits beyond the point which would be reached, on the principle I have defined, of adding the years of the war to the normal age limits, by making the upper age limit in all cases 30. Subject to the termination of the war, that should add quite a number of years to the upper age limit in the case of the clerical and executive classes and one or two years in the case of the administrative class. There is a point in that connection to which I would refer. The Committee have recommended that the candidates coming forward within the extended age limits should be divided, and that four-fifths of the vacancies should be reserved for candidates coming in on the ordinary 1380 age limits plus the years of the war and the remaining one-fifth reserved for competition among the older candidates. It seems to me that that is a reasonable recommendation, made with the object of avoiding what might be unfair competition between people who have been many years away from their studies and those who have comparatively recently left school, college or university. Those older men, therefore, will have a separate competition, except in the case of the administrative class, where the circumstances are rather different and where the effect of the age limit of 30 will be to add a comparatively small period of time to the limits that would otherwise apply.
The competition—I am speaking now of what I call the special competition, not the new normal competition which is to be started at the earliest possible date, but the competition for those whose opportunities of entering the service have been affected by the war—will be open to all comers, male or female, who possess the prescribed qualifications, that is to say, who are within the limits of age prescribed and who have the educational qualifications which it is suggested should be laid down for the various classes of recruits.
In arriving at the number of vacancies to be competed for in the special competition, vacancies which, I have said, would be reserved for the special categories of persons who had been denied the opportunity of competing in the ordinary course, there have been one or two reservations which I ought to make clear. In the first place, it is proposed that a certain proportion of vacancies should be reserved, in accordance with the principle I indicated in my statement of last February, for persons who have been serving in a temporary capacity in the Civil Service during the war, and the proportion of vacancies which it is suggested should be so reserved has been put at 15 per cent. of the vacancies in the executive and clerical classes. Over and above that there will be a small reservation for the higher posts in the Service, which will be open to persons who have shown by their performance during the war that they possess in a special degree the qualifications necessary in the public service. This is dealt with in paragraphs 32 to 34 of the Report. 1381 There will also be a small reservation, the extent of which has not yet been worked out, for permanent civil servants who in the ordinary course would have been free to compete for higher posts in the Service—for permanent clericals who might have been able to compete for executive posts, for executives who might have been able to compete for administrative posts, and so on. Many of these persons will not be eligible for the special competition, and unless some provision were made in a reasonable way for a limited number of vacancies for them, they would definitely suffer an injustice as a result of the war. But subject to those reservations, which, except for the 15 per cent. for the temporaries, will not affect materially the number of vacancies to be thrown open for this special competition, all the vacancies which are vacancies in the permanent establishment will be available for competition.
Now I come to the very important question of the treatment of ex-Service candidates. In my statement in February, as I have reminded the House, I said it was the view of the Government that generous treatment should be given to men who had been in the Fighting Services during the war, and I conceive that it is my duty on this occasion to justify to the House, from that point of view, the proposals which I am commending to their favourable consideration. Hon. Members who have read the Report will have seen that the proposal is that a varying proportion, according to the different classes of the Service, should be reserved absolutely for ex-Service candidates. In the case of the administrative class the proportion is put in the Report at 75 per cent., in the case of the executive class at 66⅔ per cent., and in the case of the clerical class at 50 per cent. I propose to take the lowest, the 50 per cent., for the purposes of illustration in order to show how that percentage has been arrived at and why I think that it does fulfil fully the expectation that was held out in my earlier statement. Before I come to the actual percentage let me first point out that the very fact that some percentage of posts is absolutely reserved for ex-Service candidates, provided they reach the minimum standards laid down, does constitute a very definite preference. I shall explain to the House that a further prefer- 1382 ence has been given in these proposals in the percentages of reservation laid down.
Taking the clerical class, the position is that before the war candidates in the examinations for the clerical class were successful in the proportions, roughly, of 60 per cent. men and 40 per cent. women. I feel sure that no one would suggest that the circumstances of the war constitute any reason why women in their candidature for the Civil Service should be treated less favourably in these post-war arrangements than would have been the case had there been no war, and, therefore, I suggest that 60 per cent. of the vacancies should in the case of the clerical class be regarded as prima facie men's vacancies. Now it is a question of how many of this 60 per cent. should go to ex-Servicemen by reservation, because there will be no limit at all as regards competition; the ex-Service men will always get as many of the vacancies as would come to them according to their order of merit in the examination. Taking the 60 per cent., it is a fact that in the age groups covered by the arrangements for the clerical class 70 per cent. of the potential candidates, excluding for this purpose manual workers, will be ex-Servicemen; that is to say, the field of possible recruitment, excluding manual workers, consists as to 70 per cent. of men in the Services and 30 per cent. of men not in the Services—men who had been directed into civil employment, men of low medical categories not considered fit for the Fighting Services, but not on that account, in the majority of cases, ruled out so far as the Civil Service is concerned. There will be 70 per cent. Service candidates and 30 per cent. non-Service. There can be no question, under these arrangements, of disqualifying anyone who would otherwise qualify within the age limits and has the necessary educational qualifications. Seventy per cent. of 60, which is prima facie the share of the men, is, if my arithmetic serves, 42. The proposal in the Report is a reservation of 50, which I suggest, on that approach is perfectly fair. A reservation of 50 as against a statistical figure of 42 does, in fact, constitute a very real preference, and amounts to the generous treatment which I promised would be given to ex-Service candidates.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer make it clear 1383 that 42 per cent. of the total, or 50 per cent. as the Report says, is a minimum, and that there is nothing whatever to prevent the actual percentage going to the ex-Servicemen being considerably greater if, on merits, they get it in the examination?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I said so in the course of my remarks—that there is nothing whatever to prevent ex-Service candidates getting on merit more than the minimum reservation.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is a floor and not a ceiling. It will sustain a man, unless he falls through it, on the ground of not coming up to the requisite standard. I hope I have explained the point that I was seeking to make clear, that this reservation, in the case of the clerical class, where the figure is lowest—it is higher in the other classes—does, in fact, represent the generous treatment that we should all like to see given to the ex-Serviceman.
Before I pass from this question of the preference for Service candidates, I must say one word about women in the Services. It is proposed in the Report that there should be a reservation for Service women, but the suggestion is that, in the case of women who, broadly speaking, have not had denied to them, to the same degree as the men in the Fighting Services, opportunities of preparing themselves for entry by competition into the Civil Service, the principle should be somewhat different. It is proposed that the reservation for women should be determined by the proportion of Service women candidates coming forward, and that they will get their numerical share—by way of reservation—of the vacancies other than those reserved for Servicemen. That is, I think, all.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Might we have an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman of what that means? Do I understand that that applies to each examination as it comes along, or does it cover the whole field?
§ Sir J. Anderson
That, as I understand it, will be applied to each examination as it comes along, that is to say, the number of vacancies reserved for women will not be determined until experience has shown in what proportion Service 1384 women candidates come forward for the particular competition, and then they will get their proportion. That is how I understand the plan.
§ Miss Ward (Wallsend)
I would like to ask the Chancellor if the whole basis of the argument for differentiation as regards women is based on the fact that they have had sufficient time to study compared with the men in the Fighting Services.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am not going to suggest to the House that there is any differentiation against women.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is not proposed to load the percentage. There is another argument, for what it is worth, and it is that if we tried to apply to women the same kind of formula—not necessarily the same in detail—as is being applied to men, the very small proportion of serving women in the total would make such an a priori reservation seem ridiculous; and it was thought that it would be better, on the whole, in the case of women, if the reservation were made in the manner I have suggested. It will be seen that it will depend entirely on the number of women who come forward, and I do not, prima facie, see any reason for holding that, to make the reservation exactly proportionate to the number of candidates who elect to come forward, represents in any way unfair discrimination.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is the first time have heard that, and I am sorry to hear it, but perhaps the National Association will be good enough to apply their minds to the considerations I am submitting to the House and to other representations that may be made in the course of the Debate, and I shall be delighted if, in the end, they feel moved to change their view. That is all, I think, that I need say about the features of this plan for special recruitment after the war. I want to say just a word about normal recruitment.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, may I ask, although it is not specifically referred to in the Report, whether there will be correspondence courses so that those in the Services can take full advantage as soon as the scheme is publicly known; or have they started already?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not suppose they have started already, but from what I know of the enterprise of those who conducted such courses before the war, I should be greatly surprised if they did not start up again as soon as they think it worth while. They have never been carried on under Government arrangement, as my hon. Friend knows, but no one need have any apprehension——
§ Sir J. Anderson
Let me come to recruitment. Hon. Members may have observed that there are some special details to be introduced, and one involves the extension, in a downward direction, of the interview which has been a feature of the competition for, I think, the administrative posts. The Committee suggest that that innovation should be treated as experimental. In regard to recruitment to the administrative class, there is another change suggested which may prove to be of much greater significance. Hitherto, recruitment for the administrative class, like recruitment to the other classes of the Civil Service, has been entirely by way of competitive examination on a literary standard. It has often been suggested that an examination of an exacting kind is not, from every point of view, an ideal method of selecting those persons who are going to prove themselves best suited for responsible work in the public service. But no attempt has been made hitherto, so far as the home Civil Service is concerned, to introduce any alternative plan, though in the case of some of the overseas services—the Colonial Services and the Indian Civil Service—a system of what may be called competitive selection for a proportion of vacancies—and in the case of some of the Colonial Services for all the vacancies—has, I believe, been in operation for quite a considerable period, and has given satisfactory results.
The Committee now propose that a plan should be tried by which, side by side with the ordinary written examina- 1386 tion, a proportion of vacancies should be set apart to be filled by what we call competitive selection, by a process of interview and consideration of educational record, and so forth, under the auspices of the Civil Service Commission. I think the suggestion is a good one and that it ought to be tried, but I think that the results should, as the Committee recommend, be reviewed after a comparatively short period, so that we can judge whether this system should be continued.
There are other matters dealt with in the Report on which I do not think I need dwell at any length. There is the question of training, which is a matter that has rightly attracted a good deal of attention of late. It was the subject, I think, of a special Report by a Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General when he was Financial Secretary, and the House was informed that the Government had accepted the recommendations in that Report and were proceeding to put them into effect. It may, perhaps, interest the House to know that the Treasury have selected a director of training and education for the purpose of carrying out the recommendations. The appointment has been offered to, and accepted by, Mr. A. P. Sinker, who is a Fellow and senior tutor of Jesus College, Cambridge. Mr. Sinker is 39 years of age and has been working for the past five years in the Admiralty, where he occupies the position of a temporary Assistant Secretary. He knows the conditions of the Civil Service, and his qualifications for the post are, I think, admirable, and arrangements are being made by which he will be released at once to give practically the whole of his time to the new work on the lines visualised in the Report of the Committee. My right hon. Friend beside me tells me that I was wrong in saying that the special Report was the Report of a Committee presided over by the Postmaster-General. It was, I am told, the late Financial Secretary, the successor of the Postmaster-General in that position—the right hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Assheton)—who presided over that Committee.
That concludes what I have to say in commending this plan to the favourable consideration of the House. In the process of recovery from the strain and disturbance of war, and for our future well-being, the quality of the Civil 1387 Service of this country will, as I am sure all hon. Members agree, be of first rate importance. In this regard, the matter of recruitment is fundamental, is of prime importance, and I hope the House will agree with me that we are greatly indebted to the National Whitley Council for the sober responsibility and constructive judgment which they have brought to bear on the matters entrusted to them. I think it augurs very well for the future of the Civil Service that it should have evolved so effective a joint body of representatives of the Government, as employers, and of the staffs of all grades, and should have tackled a job of this kind in the spirit and with the results exhibited in this Report.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown rose——
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford)
On a point of Order. There is upon the Order Paper an Amendment in my name. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it is your intention to call that Amendment?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for asking that question. I do not propose to call the Amendment, because I have no doubt that the point it raises can be made in the Debate and the Amendment might tend to limit the discussion.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
Like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I would like to commend the terms of this White Paper to the favourable and cordial attention of the House of Commons, and I want to do that on three main grounds. The first ground is that this is a considered report; the second is that this is a balanced report; and the third is that this is an agreed report. I should like to say something under each of those three heads. I say first that this is a considered Report, and in that respect it presents us with a situation in very marked contrast to the situation which developed at the end of the last war. During that war, as during this war, open and competitive recruitment to the public service was suspended, with the result that very large numbers of vacancies in the established grades accrued during the war period. During the last war, too, as in this, there was a very wide recruitment of temporary staff to cope with the extended work of Government Departments arising out of war conditions. 1388 So that the last war produced features essentially similar to those which have been experienced in the public service during this war. However, there was this very great difference.
In the case of the last war we did not, while the war was on, envisage the Civil Service situation which would have to be dealt with when the war came to an end. Nothing whatever was done by way of arranging to deal with that situation until 1920, when, in great haste, there was set up what was known as the Temporary Staff Committee of the National Whitley Council, which did its best, under pressure, to cope with a problem which should have been tackled some years before. It produced a Report which was accepted by the Government, and on which I will not comment to-day beyond saying that subsequent to that report, every kind of pressure group in the House of Commons got to work. The result was that instead of having a considered plan for dealing with the post-war situation, we had a hastily improvised plan, subsequently battered about from left to right by various pressure groups in the House of Commons, informed and guided from outside.
As a result of that, while I do not want to be unkind to that previous House or to the Treasury, or even to the Service unions, it would not be unfair to say that we achieved a hotch-potch of arrangements decided upon without a clear realisation of the consequences of applying them. The result of that was that for something like 13 years after the last war had ended open and competitive recruitment to the public Service in Britain was almost completely suspended, and there was produced in the public Service a disturbance of the age groups which, the Chancellor will agree, has been a constant liability to the public Service ever since. Indeed, I regret to say that I fear the efficiency of the public Service of those years was adversely affected by the improvised character of the arrangements made at the end of the last war. In the case of this war, we are not waiting until the post-war crisis is upon us before we deal with this problem, and before peace comes we have a considered Report dealing with this very difficult problem of recruitment in the Service after the war. That is the first ground upon which I commend this Report to the House of Commons.
1389 The second ground is that this is a balanced Report. In considering this problem of post-war recruitment in the public Service, there are many interests to be considered. Doubtless some Members of Parliament will be more concerned with this interest than with that, and others still more concerned with another interest, but the Government and the Civil Service trades unions must be concerned not with one interest but all the interests that appear in considering this matter. One interest is the efficiency of the public Service, and on that I should like cordially to endorse what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his closing sentences. As time goes on, the more essential it is that the public Service should be efficient. Some three or four centuries ago, when the functions of the State were very limited, and the size of the Civil Service very small, a simple and uncomplex organisation might satisfy us. But to-day the State touches the life of the individual at every point between the cradle and the grave. As a matter of fact, the State does not wait until we are born before it starts on us; it provides ante-natal clinics before we put in our appearance. And it does not relax its hold on us when we are dead for, after we are dead, we still have to deal with the Inland Revenue Department over which the Chancellor used to preside not so long ago. At every point between the cradle and the grave our lives are touched by the activity of some Government Department or another. When we are born we become the concern of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. At five we become the concern of the Minister of Education. At 14 we become the concern of the Minister of Labour when we go out to work in the world. If we get sick we become the concern of the Minister of Health. If we are unemployed, we go to the Minister of Labour again for unemployment benefit. If we exhaust that benefit, we become the subject of the attentions of the Assistance Board. If we work in a factory, we come under the attention of the Factories Department of the Home Office. If we are bankrupt—a contingency which does occur sometimes—we come under the care of another Department, the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade.
So, at every stage in our life we come under the care of one Government 1390 Department or another and, even when we are dead, there is the Death Duty Department of the Inland Revenue to assess our estate, if any, and if there is any left at the end of that, there is the Public Trustee Department to invest for our dependants and look after them in the capacity of trustee. From before birth until after death we are concerned with some Government Department or another, and the result is that the modern Civil Service has a complexity which is altogether out of proportion to the comparatively simple organisation that would serve the national need at an earlier time. Therefore, efficiency is a consideration we must bear in mind.
A second consideration to be borne in mind is the very proper preference that a country ought to show to those who have fought the battles of the State and the country in this war. There is, however, a third element we have to bear in mind, and that is this, that in this war, whether a man has served in the Army or not, or whether a woman went into the auxiliary Forces, or on to the land or into a factory, the decision has not been within the discretion of the individual. The State has taken charge of us all and to some it has said, "Go into the Army," and to others, "You must not go into the Army, you must do some other form of war-work." In a totalitarian war the gratitude of the State, while it is properly given to the soldiers, ought not to be confined to them. We must have some regard to the rest of the population too.
There is a fourth interest, that of the men and women who have served the community in the Civil Service while the war has been on, and to whom, I submit, we cannot just bid a soldier's farewell at the end of the war and leave it at that. They have an interest which must be properly considered. Then there is a fifth, the interest of the serving permanent Civil Servant, now in the Army it may be, who, but for the war, would have sat for an examination which would have taken him into a higher level of the Civil Service itself—for example the young clerical officer who would have sat for the executive examination; the young clerical assistant who would have sat for the clerical officers' examination; the executive officer who would have sat for the administrative examination. All these have been blocked because of 1391 the suspension of competition, but those men, the bulk of whom will have served in the Army, and the women in the auxiliary Forces, have a right to be taken into account. This Report represents a genuine effort on the part of both sides of the National Whitley Council to take all those elements into account and to do reasonable justice between those half dozen, not hostile, but somewhat divergent claims. That is the second ground upon which I recommend this Report to the favourable attention of the House.
The third ground is that this is an agreed Report. When you have a Civil Service as large as the British service; when you have a half million civil servants represented on the staff side of the National Whitley Council and organised in a very considerable number of different associations and trade unions; when you have on the other side of the Whitley Council a couple of score of heads of Departments, each concerned with the collective interests of the Service, and with the interests of his own Department, to reach an agreement over so wide a field as this and with so many divergent claims to be considered, represents a very considerable achievement indeed. If this document had been drafted solely by the trades unions of the public service, it would not be in the form in which it comes to the House to-day. If it had been drafted solely by the Establishments Division of the Treasury, again I do not think it would have appeared in quite the form that it does to-day. It comes before us as an agreed document, and I am authorised to say on behalf of the Civil Service unions—with two exceptions with which I will deal in a moment—that the trades unions of the Service will accept and co-operate in the working out of this document provided the Government keeps to the document on its side. We are prepared to accept and work this thing and try to make a success of it.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House whether he means by that that the unions expect the Government to carry out this scheme in all its details as presented in the Report, and will exclude any possibility of modification of any of its proposals?
§ Mr. Brown
I welcome the interruption of the hon. and learned Member. He is 1392 concerned, as the Amendment on the Order Paper in his name indicates, to get the maximum preference for ex-Service men, and I have no doubt that when he comes to speak later—as he probably will if he catches your eye, Sir—he will be urging that on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I start from the view that I want to see every legitimate preference given to ex-Service men, but I say with equal emphasis that they are not the only class to be considered in looking at this Report, and that these other factors of war workers in other spheres, of civil servants now serving temporarily in the Forces, of the educational and efficiency needs of the Service must all be taken into account and, doing this, the unions and the Government agree in recommending the proposals in this White Paper for the acceptance of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Brown
We think we have the best set-up we can get, and we are afraid that if the hon. and leaned Member presses for the alteration of this document in this respect, then other interests will start pressing to alter it in other respects. Let me give a case in point. Take the temporary civil servants, who do not get a large number of vacancies under this scheme. Those men are members of the unions sitting on the staff side of the National Whitley Council, and if we had paid regard only to that particular interest, the unions would have pressed for a much bigger percentage to be given to those men. They have not done so because they have been prepared to give very great weight to the point of view which my hon. and learned Friend represents in this House, but if he tries to push the Government or the unions further along that path, then equally great difficulties will be created in other directions.
All the unions concerned, with two exceptions to which I will refer in a moment, endorse these proposals. One exception is the National Association of Women Civil Servants, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Miss Ward) referred. I would not wish to say anything disrespectful about that organisation, but I think the House should be informed that its title is very misleading, because it suggests that all women civil servants are members of that organisation. Actually, its membership is 3,000 out 1393 of a total of over 130,000 women civil servants, and it has no representative character for women in the Civil Service as a whole. The second exception is a body called the Association of ex-Service Civil Servants, whose title is as misleading as the title of the association I referred to a moment or two ago. There are about 140,000 ex-Service men in the Civil Service, and of that number fewer than 4,000 are represented by that Association——
§ Mr. Brown
I beg the hon. and learned Member's pardon; I should not have imputed that he did. That was an error, and I withdraw. However, it may be referred to. The overwhelming bulk of men in the Civil Service are in the ordinary trade unions of the Civil Service, and, similarly, the overwhelming majority of ex-Service men in the public service are organised in the appropriate trade unions.
§ Mr. Brown
Take the organisation I know best, the Civil Service Clerical Association. It has 40 per cent. women and 60 per cent. men. In war-time it is nearer "fifty-fifty." The women express themselves in proportion to their number—in some cases in greater proportion—in determining the policy of the Association. The idea that they are not represented on the staff side is quite wrong——
§ Mr. Brown
That may be, but the point is that whether the signatories are men or women they were signing on behalf of organisations which include men and women, and which include the overwhelming majority of the men and women in the Civil Service. Those organisations include 95 per cent. of the 1394 ex-Service men and the women in the entire Service.
I do not intend, however, to make a speech on the details of this White Paper. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has relieved me of the necessity for doing that, because he has covered effectively its proposals, which I want heartily to commend to the notice and acceptance of this House. I know that we are all subjected to various influences and pressures from different quarters, and that the House of Commons must reflect, to a degree, the differences of opinion and interests outside—I make no complaint about that—but I would like to emphasise to the House that this is an agreed settlement. If we seek substantially to alter it, in one direction or another, we shall evoke counter-pressures which may have the effect of throwing the whole thing into the melting pot. If the Chancellor says something on his own he may or may not be right. If I say something on my own I am almost bound to be right. But if we both say the same thing at the same time, then the House has 100 per cent. assurance, that if they take our joint advice, they will be doing the right thing.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford)
On previous occasions when the House has been invited to give its approval to a White Paper containing a statement of Government policy it has usually been the case that the White Paper was to be followed by legislation and that the House would, therefore, have a subsequent opportunity of considering the details of the proposals which were contained in that White Paper. But in the case of this White Paper that is not so. This White Paper contains a scheme, complete in all its details, for which the approval of the House is sought. I hope that my right hon. Friend does not expect the House to accept all the details of this proposed scheme if we agree to the Motion to-day, and I trust that the Financial Secretary, when he comes to reply to the Debate, will be able to assure us that what the Government are seeking is the approval of the House for the general framework of this scheme, and that if as the result of consideration of the different points of view which will no doubt be expressed in this Debate they are satisfied that modifications—not of the structure, but of the details—are desirable in order 1395 to meet those views the Chancellor will regard himself as free to introduce into this scheme such modifications as may appear in those circumstances to be necessary. I hope that the Financial Secretary may be able to assure us that the procedure which was adopted in a somewhat similar case, when the question of Service pay and allowances was debated in this House, on a White Paper, when Members were invited to discuss with the Government the modifications which they thought were needed, will be followed again.
It was, in my judgment, not altogether a fortunate thing that the Chancellor should have selected a body constituted as this Committee of the National Whitley Council is constituted, as the most suitable body to make recommendations on this subject. This Committee—and I make no complaint of this—is a body which is representative solely of Civil Service interests; it has no direct contact with influences outside the Civil Service. As I hope to be able to show in a few moments, the result of that has been to exercise a limiting and restrictive influence over the Report which they have made. I desire to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) in acknowledging the services which this Committee have rendered. But at the same time I desire to qualify that acknowledgement by drawing attention to the fact that this Committee was a body which necessarily had a very restricted outlook, which limited the approach that they made to this important and vital question of recruitment to the Civil Service. It is unfortunate that there was not on this body some representative of the interests to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby referred. I do not propose to join with him in issues as to the representative character or otherwise of the two bodies which he mentioned. I did not introduce a reference to them in this Debate, and I do not propose to pursue the matter further except to say that I think that it was unfortunate that there was on this Committee nobody who could claim to be a representative of Service or ex-Service interests——
§ Mr. Brown
I am sorry, but that is not true. Among my own class, for instance, who served in the last war, 94 per cent. of those civil servants were in the Armed Forces. But that did not prevent 1396 them being members of their ordinary trade unions, and it ought to prevent any suggestion that the ordinary trade unions are not representative of the point of view of ex-Servicemen or women.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
My hon. Friend introduced this topic; had he not done so I should not have referred to it.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I do not propose to dispute whether any particular organisation is representative of any particular interest or not. All I intend to do is to say that I think it is unfortunate that there was nobody who was solely representative of ex-Service interests who was a member of the Committee which has produced this Report.
Demobilisation of the Armed Forces presents the Civil Service with an exceptional opportunity to obtain recruits of proved ability, and of much wider experience than those who normally enter the Service. This White Paper gives no indication that this Committee have so much as appreciated that that opportunity exists. They have approached their subject solely from the standpoint of considering how best they are to make good to those who might have had an opportunity to enter the Civil Service through the normal channels had it not been for their service in the Armed Forces, the opportunity which has been lost. I acknowledge that their proposals, restricted to that limited purpose alone, are ingenious and will go a long way towards making good those lost opportunities. But the point I make is that that in itself is not sufficient. Here is an opportunity to bring into the Service young men and women who have had an exceptional training and an exceptional opportunity to require precisely that breadth of outlook and experience which, it is sometimes said, is lacking in the normal Civil Service recruit. I should have thought that this Committee would have welcomed that opportunity and would have made proposals which would take full advantage of this exceptional source of recruitment. I do not say that on that ground alone we should reject the general framework of this scheme; but I intend later to indicate one or two directions in which, in my judgment, modifications of these proposals would have the 1397 effect of remedying what I regard as a fundamental defect in the proposals in this White Paper.
In recent years the opinion has been gaining ground that the traditional methods of recruitment for the Civil Service are not producing recruits of the experience and vision which the modern conditions under which the Service operates demand. I cannot express those reasons better than they were expressed in the following passage from a recent Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure.The great majority of civil servants are recruited at an age before they have been brought into contact with the complicated realities of the outside world and without any practical training for the work that lies before them.The Committee then proceeded to make recommendations for training which led to the appointment of the Departmental Committee to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already referred. The system of recruiting direct from school or from the university has been responsible to a very large extent for that limitation of outlook which the critics of the Civil Service have detected in the normal Civil Service personnel. Here is an opportunity provided by the war to obtain recruits whose training, experience and outlook are very different from those of the normal boy entering from school or entering the higher grade direct from a university. It seems to me to be a pity that no greater attempt is made in this report to take advantage of that new material which the war has suddenly and unexpectedly presented to the public service. These young men and women who will be leaving the Armed Forces have been serving for five years under very exacting conditions. They have had an elaborate training. Much is known of their capabilities. They have been selected for the work they are doing—in the Army at any rate—by the most elaborate modern methods of selection. It may have been true to say after the last war that five years' service in a waterlogged trench was not in itself a qualification for a post in a Government office; but that criticism to-day is completely without foundation. These young people are working a highly complex administrative machine. Many of them have had training of a high order in administrative work and I should have thought that the 1398 ability they have shown and the experience they have gained in carrying our Arms victoriously upon every battlefield in Europe would be an excellent qualification for employment in the public service when the war comes to an end.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I come now to the proposals in the White Paper, and I desire to put forward certain suggestions for their modification. I do not ask my right hon. Friend to accept or to reject them but I hope he will feel able to say that consideration shall be given to them in conjunction with hon. Members who will express different points of view to-day and, I hope, with representative organisations which claim to speak on behalf of men and women serving in the Forces.
I take first of all the suggested age limit for candidates at the reconstruction examinations. The Committee propose to take the normal age of entry to the particular branch of the Service and add to it a period of six years. In that way they claim to restore to those who have lost the opportunity of competition a chance to make good that opportunity. If the upper age limits are to be fixed as low as that, it must necessarily involve that large numbers of young men and women who possess special ability and are particularly suitable for service in the Civil Service will necessarily be excluded because they are a few years above the limit. No doubt there is a limit of age beyond which a man cannot usefully enter a new occupation; but that limit certainly is not 24 for the executive and clerical grades, and it is certainly not 30 for the administrative grade. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider very seriously whether this upper age limit ought not to be extended so as to bring in every candidate who may be suitable. The Committee themselves recognise that, if those limits are fixed at the levels that are proposed, they will be excluding a very large number of suitable candidates. Therefore they themselves introduce a modification by providing that one-fifth of the candidates may actually be in a higher age group. It is proposed, for example, in the clerical grade, where the upper age limit is the lowest, that one-fifth of the candidates may be between 24 and 30. That in itself is evidence that the Committee recognise that the age 1399 limits are generally fixed too low and that they will inevitably exclude a large number of suitable candidates.
My right hon. Friend explained how the proportion of what are called reserved places is to be fixed and claimed that there were outside the Armed Forces a number of young men, and I suppose young women, in these age groups for whom certain places ought to be available. In the clerical grade the estimated number of successful male entrants, on the pre-war figures, is stated to be 62 per cent., and it is proposed that 50 per cent. of the total number of places in that class shall be reserved for male ex-Service candidates. I cannot imagine what type of candidate is going to fill the places which are represented by the difference between 50 and 62. My right hon. Friend referred to those who had been directed to industry. It has not been my experience that a very large number of fit young men in the age group 18 to 24 have been directed to industry. Then he said there were a number of persons who were not physically fit. Standards of physical fitness have had to be reduced for the Armed Forces and I should have thought that a man who was not physically fit for service in the Armed Forces is not likely to be able to pass the physical examinations which are required for the Civil Service. Therefore I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether this proposed reservation of places ought not to be extended to a figure much nearer the estimated number of male entrants who would go into the Service in normal years.
It is proposed that the lower age limit should be fixed at the normal age for entry into each class. That means to say that, concurrently with the ex-Service and other candidates who will compete in these reconstruction competitions, you would have a certain number of boys and girls coming straight from school or from the university and competing with the others. That seems to be a provision which is altogether unnecessary. I can see no reason why a young man or woman coming from school or university at the normal age should be a competitor in a reconstruction competition at all. It may be that that is not the intention of the scheme, but I should like some assurance that the lower age limit for competitors for the reserved vacancies, which will be 1400 filled as a result of those reconstruction competitions, will be fixed at an age not below the Service age limit for the Armed Forces. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us an assurance that that matter will also be considered.
I come now to the question of competitions for the normal vacancies. It is proposed that these should commence concurrently with the competitions for the approved vacancies. Here, again, I can see no reason why normal recruitment for the Civil Service should commence at the same time as the recruitment by means of the reconstruction examination. Having regard to the fact that there are available for recruitment to the Civil Service a large number of Service recruits of a very special type, possessing just that experience and breadth of vision which critics of the Civil Service have said is lacking in the Service, and having regard to the fact that we shall have for a short time that particular type of recruit available, the normal recruitment for the Service ought to be postponed until such time as suitably and specially qualified ex-Service candidates cease to be available. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider this matter too.
I come now to my final point, and I would submit it to the House as perhaps the most important criticism of the White Paper. There are in the Services to-day many young men, and, I expect, many young women, who have risen during the war to positions of administrative responsibility. Many of them have risen from the lower ranks in the Services and are holding posts which call for administrative knowledge and capabilities. I would take as an instance, in the higher classes, a young man who has passed through the course at a War Staff College and is holding an administrative post, perhaps at the War Office, at an Army headquarters, at a formation headquarters or elsewhere. There are many such young men who started their career in the Army at the outset of this war as non-commissioned officers, or even as private soldiers, many of them serving in the ranks of the Regular Army before the war. In the war they have received commissioned rank, they have been trained at the War Staff Colleges, and they have been appointed to positions in which they are doing work of identical character to the work which they would be required to 1401 do in the Civil Service. If you take the clerical grade of the Service, there are to-day men serving, for example, as staff sergeants in the Royal Army Service Corps, as staff sergeants and conductors in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, as artillery clerks and so forth. All these men are doing responsible clerical and administrative work very similar to the work they would be required to do in the Civil Service. This Report makes no provision for the entry into the Civil Service of these men if they do not happen to possess the educational qualifications which are laid down as the condition for the Civil Service.
There is certainly in the White Paper a provision for special entry of ex-Service candidates of this class who are serving as temporary civil servants. But is it reasonable to say to a young man of proved ability in the class to which I have just referred, that the only channel by which he can enter the Civil Service is to serve first as a temporary in the hope that later on he will be chosen for an established post? If that is made a condition, these young men, quite naturally, will not be inclined to enter the Civil Service at all, and the opportunity of securing them for the public service will be entirely lost. I invite my right hon. Friend to consider whether there ought not to be some provision for special entry of the class of persons to whom I have referred, and I suggest that the qualification should be by interview and recommendation from a departmental board upon which the Service in which they have served is represented. I invite my right hon. Friend to consider whether some provision ought not to be made for the special entry of those who possess the exceptional qualifications and experience to which I have alluded.
In conclusion I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby in acknowledging the comprehensive character of this Report; but I am sure that it is not a report which will command the complete confidence of the public or of the Services unless it is modified along the lines I have suggested.
§ 1.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Reakes (Wallasey)
I rise to support the admirable speech made by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), who, with his usual ability and 1402 clarity, has proved that the Report which we are now considering is a good one. I am not sure, however, after the Report has been submitted to such a microscopical examination as that given to it by the hon. and learned Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson), that there are not points in it which merit consideration. I want to say a word in support of the temporary civil servant. I regard the temporary civil servants who have been recruited during the war, as having added brightness and colour to what was a colourless profession. They have raised the standard of experience of life in the Government service and, in fact, have humanised the permanent Civil Service. Unquestionably, they have rendered a tremendous service to the war effort. For that reason, I hope that the claims of the temporary civil servant will be taken into account when the war is over. What I have said applies to all branches of the Service, where temporary civil servants have been recruited, but I want to make special mention of the Postal and Telegraph Censorship, of which I was a member for two and a half years as a temporary servant. It has been hiding its light under a bushel in Liverpool for five years, and it is undoubtedly the Cinderella of the Ministry of Information.
We hear a lot about temporary civil servants in other Ministries, but we have never yet heard in this House much about the branch to whch I have referred. In that body are a large number of men and women of extraordinary experience. I make bold to say that if their collective wisdom and experience could be stated in words, it would stagger the House. I have never known such a wonderful collection of individuals as those who have been doing this drab, dreary work since the outbreak of the war, not only in Liverpool, but in London and other parts. There are among them wonderful linguists and experts on shipping, cotton and a hundred and one other professions, trades and industries. I claim for this branch of the Service that it has cost the country nothing, because, in locating information for our Armed Forces and the Ministry of Home Security, and in locating dollar securities in the United States and bringing them to light for the benefit of the Treasury, it has more than earned its keep. I should be sorry to see the men and women in this Department turned adrift instead of being brought into the Service when the war is over.
1403 It would be a good idea to create a wing of temporary civil servants attached to the main body. We would be able to utilise their individual experiences and the knowledge they have gained during the war while rendering service to the State, and bring these qualities to bear upon the solution of the problems that will arise after the war. I am aware that there may be far too many competitors for the positions, but that situation can be eased by asking men at the top to vacate their positions at an earlier age. I would like to see the age of retirement reduced. We know that there are in public positions, men who cling to office like ivy to an aged wall, and who will serve, if possible, until their usefulness to the State is brought into question. I support the hon. Member for Rugby and I express the hope that some regard will be paid to the criticisms made of the scheme by the hon. and learned Member for Ilford.
§ 1.45 p.m.
§ Major Neven-Spence (Orkney and Zetland)
The hon. Member who has just spoken made a very strong plea on behalf of the temporary civil servant. I have a rather uncomfortable feeling at the back of my mind that he was really inviting us to repeat the very serious blunders we made in regard to the Civil Service after the last war. The unplanned recruitment that took place then did the Civil Service an immense amount of harm. I am glad to see on page 6 of the White Paper a statement in the following terms, concerning one of the most important points involved:All who have been familiar with the Civil Service in the inter-war years, and during this war, are deeply conscious of the unhappy effects of unplanned recruitment immediately after the last war, and of the failure to maintain sufficiently high standards of qualification.There is only one way to avoid repetition of that mistake, and that is to revive at the earliest possible moment the system of entry by competitive examination, as soon as sufficient candidates become available from the Service, from the war industries and from other occupations in civil life—which of course cannot be until the end of the war with Germany. I would like to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) whether there is not overlooked what I believe to have been another and equally 1404 important mistake that was made after the last war. It was a grave mistake and had in the end a disastrous consequence, for which, in the long run, the country had to pay very dearly, and that was the economy campaign. Hon. Members will recollect that economy became a sort of battle-cry and that a Minister was appointed with an axe. The newspapers went into top gear with screaming headlines about over-stiffing in Government Departments. The axe fell and it fell with particular fury on the Civil, Naval and Military Services.
I submit that those Services, all of which are of such vital importance to the country, ought not to be subjected to sudden changes of policy, which might upset the whole structure of the Service, perhaps largely dictated by a hysterical attitude of mind of the Government; and, in any case, the very last Service in which we ought to sacrifice efficiency on the altar of economy is our Civil Service. No-one will dispute the need for planned recruitment in the post-war period, but I hope, when the day does come, as it certainly will at some stage after this war, when there will have to be some retrenchment, that if there is to be any cutting dawn of the established Civil Service, it will be done by judicious pruning and cutting out the dead wood, rather than by the sort of mass execution that took place after the last war.
Like other hon. Members, I welcome the generous prospect which the White Paper holds out to the ex-Service man. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson), who can always be relied upon to speak very warmly on behalf of the ex-Serviceman, certainly had our sympathy. I am not sure that we should all be prepared to go quite so far as he is prepared to go. I, personally, also welcome the reservation made in favour of other members of the community who have also played their part in the war effort, and who, because of that, have lost the chance they would normally have had of entering the Civil Service. Everyone will, I think, also welcome the indication in this White Paper that entry into the Civil Service is to be subject to the possession of the necessary qualifications and to proof of suitability for the post. Those are very important points, because the Civil Service must at all times strive to maintain its reputation with the country. Only by 1405 its reputation will it continue to attract into its fold the right type of people. The nation has a very strong interest in maintaining the efficiency of its Civil Service at the very highest possible level.
I want to say a few words now on the relationship between the general public and the Civil Service. The other day, when sympathising with Great Britain over her woes, the Prime Minister used words which, it seemed to me, could, with a very slight change, be applied with peculiar force to our Civil Service. Very slightly amended, the words would read as follows:Poor old civil servants. They have to assume the burden of the most thankless tasks, scoffed at, abused and criticised from every quarter.They are fair game for the comedian, for the popular Press and for writers of letters to "The Times" and, I blush to say, even for Members of Parliament. What is the verdict of those who are in the best position to judge in this matter, those who come into the closest contact with the Civil Service? They say, as Sir Walter Layton said recently, that the ranks of the Civil Service teem with men who have absolutely first-class brains. They say, as Ministers have so often said in this House, that our Civil Service is staffed by men actuated by the highest sense of duty to the community, and of a standard of integrity rarely equalled and nowhere surpassed. Those are highly complimentary words, which I believe to be absolutely true.
We may ask ourselves, then, whence comes this conflict of opinion between those who on the one hand are really in a position to judge, and, on the other hand, members of the general public? My own belief is that it largely arises at that level, at which the general public come into contact with the Civil Service, that is to say across the counter, in one branch of the Civil Service or another. Everybody has had an unfortunate experience of that kind, and the blame is by no means always with the civil servant, but sometimes it is. The pity of it is that one unfortunate experience of that kind may make the member of the public who has undergone it a walking advertisement against the Civil Service, as a whole, and can do an amount of harm to the reputation of the Service out of all proportion to the magnitude of 1406 the unfortunate experience which he has had.
This is a matter to which the clerical grades might perhaps give some careful consideration. I think they might ask themselves whether it is better to have their Service abused and criticised, as it sometimes is by the Press and the public, because of the damaging effect on the public mind caused by the unsuitability of the odd individual, or whether the interests of the Service and its credit in the public mind, would not be strengthened if the permanence of these jobs were made rather less automatic than is now the case and more subject to the test of efficiency. It certainly will not be possible to recruit the right people, and get the best out of them when recruited, unless the reputation of the Civil Service is maintained at the highest possible level. In this connection it might be worth while for the Government to give consideration to the question whether conditions of pay, service and pension of the lowest grades of the Service are really such as to attract the right type of candidate.
Now I pass to the subject of the administrative grades, and I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether it is proposed to adhere rigidly to the figures laid down in the White Paper. I think some other hon. Member asked that question. I would suggest very humbly, especially concerning the administrative grades, that we should not adhere too rigidly to the proportion of vacancies available for reconstruction competition as stated on page 4 of the White Paper. I suggest that this should be subject to alteration in the light of experience. It is most important that the reservations should not be too high, especially in the administrative grades, because the administrative grade is the cream of the Civil Service. These are the men who have to advise Ministers and who plan reforms. We have had many examples of their planning work in the spate of White Papers which have descended on us in recent months. The work of composition of those White Papers, as Lord Winslow said the other day in a Sunday paper, is extremely expert. They are the men who frame the Bills. They are the architects of the administrative structure. Theirs is a task of very great responsibility, far greater in many cases than that of the heads of the biggest businesses 1407 and largest public utility undertakings in this country.
In winning the peace, these men will have a vital part to play, just as vital as they played and are playing in helping us to win the war. It is not so long since that they were complimented on the very great effort they have made in regard to the war. Compare the salaries of these men with the salaries that are paid in the biggest businesses. There is no comparison possible. Are we quite sure that the salaries and conditions of service that we offer are such as will continue to attract into the Service the very highest type of man we want and must have for these responsible posts? It is not enough for us to say that a sufficient number of candidates is forthcoming; what we want to be able to say is that we have the very best candidates that are available. Efficiency must be the criterion and the guiding principle, but efficiency does not depend solely on the method of recruitment, or even on the method of recruitment plus training. There are other factors which come into the question. I note with satisfaction from page 5 of the White Paper that the Government are examining the question of whether the existing superannuation arrangements are sufficiently flexible. To take an example; it is surely all wrong that full pension can be earned only after 40 years of service and that no one in the administrative grades can earn a full pension because no one can join until the age of 21; most of them join when they are about 23, and the retiring age is 60.
I referred a few moments ago, in connection with the clerical grades, to the question whether absolute security of tenure was in the best interests of the Service. I want to look at that question in connection with the administrative grades. Why not, since conditions of service are being examined at the preset time, consider whether security of tenure in its present application to administrative posts in the Civil Service, should not be abandoned in favour of a system under which the highest rewards would go to the best men, and, on the other hand, the least efficient would be got rid of? Then again why should the Civil Service not have widows' and orphans' pensions as well as superannuation allowances. There are other questions which have a bearing on recruit- 1408 ment. In connection with the administrative class, I have one more point to make. It is no use having the best brains at the top of the Civil Service unless the men who are at the top get time to use them. It is well known that the Civil Service administrative staff work extremely long hours at very high speed, under great pressure, and there are many people who come into contact with them who think it would be greatly to the public advantage if we saw to it that there are enough of them at the top, so that their leaders will have time to think.
My last point, on the subject of selection, is this: I notice that the Whitley Council Committee recommend that the reconstruction competitions should consist of written examinations plus an interview. That is quite a sound condition, but it crosses my mind whether the time has not come to take a step forward. Modern methods have been introduced into the Army. They have developed a special technique, in the War Office Selection Board, for recruiting officers for the Army, and the work they have done is pioneer work which has been outstandingly successful, because no one can get a commission in the Fighting Forces unless he has been found to possess all the qualities necessary to the making of a good officer. I ask whether the time has not come to apply a similar test in recruiting officers for the Civil Service to ensure that no one is taken into the Service who is not in every way qualified to be a good officer in that Service? In that way I think we will probably get rid of many of the complaints with which we have all been familiar in the past.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Miss Ward (Wallsend)
It is very regrettable that this White Paper should have apparently attracted so little interest on the part of the House of Commons generally, because I am quite certain we are all agreed that an efficient Civil Service for the future is absolutely vital to the best interests of this country. I would like to reinforce something that was said by my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, with regard to general conditions and pay of the Civil Service. I think it most important that proper, adequate and generous salaries should be paid, and I have always viewed with very grave regret what I consider to be the deplorably low salaries paid to the higher grades 1409 of the Civil Service. I suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer finds a little difficulty in coming to the House of Commons and arguing the case of his own Service, but I think it is imperative that we should see that these men and women, who have served this country so loyally, are adequately, properly and generously remunerated, and I hope it will not be very long before we see a real improvement in this direction.
I wish particularly to deal with one point which has been touched on by one or two speakers, with regard to the provision made for ex-Service women in the White Paper. I do not want to get into any real controversy, but I think that the views of the National Association of Women Civil Servants should be placed on record. I would like to say, in general, that I think that the best way we can serve the interests of the Service men and women in the future is to provide for them, as well as for the community as a whole, the very best Civil Service possible. It is of course very difficult to follow all the percentages which were argued by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I am quite certain that by attracting to the Civil Service the best brains this country can provide, we shall serve the best interests of the community as a whole. But with regard to the position of the ex-Service women, as touched on in the White Paper, this is the resolution which has been passed by the National Association of Women Civil Servants:That this Committee oppose the adoption of the recommendation that the allocation of vacancies in the Civil Service for ex-Service men and women should be determined by different principles in the case of the men and the women, the allocations for men being based on the number of vacancies and the allocations for women being based on the number of candidates. The Committee regards this proposal as a serious departure from the principle of equal admission to the Civil Service which was laid down by Parliament and has been in force since 1925. After full consideration of the reasons alleged for the proposal, the Joint Committee recommend that whatever the percentage of vacancies it is decided to reserve for ex-Service admissions to the various grades, these vacancies should be open equally for competition between ex-Service men and ex-Service women.I would be very grateful if my right hon. Friend will explain in what way, by including in this White Paper this departure from principle, he thinks the interests of the fighting men and of the 1410 ex-Servicemen and women are really being protected. I know that, as the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) has said, these proposals have been agreed by the Civil Service bodies which I gather he represents in this House of Commons, but as this House also stands for the protection of minorities, I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend could go a little further into the details of why this decision has been taken. I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor did give two reasons, one on his own initiative and one stimulated by an interruption from me. With regard to the reason he himself advocated, which was that Service women generally had had more opportunity for study than Servicemen, I am not disagreeing with him on that point, but there are a vast number of Servicemen who have been doing what I might call sedentary jobs. There are men who have been in the Pay Corps, men who are in the Air Ministry, the Admiralty and the War Office, and the whole body of Servicemen have been included in the special provision laid down in the White Paper for their admission to the Civil Service in the future.
I can quite see, on the Chancellor's own explanation, a point for a differentiation, if it had been made as between men in the active Fighting Services in the field, and the men and women who have been employed, so to speak, servicing the men in the field. I understand it takes 10 men and women to service one fighting man. But that differentiation has not been made in the White Paper. I could not help feeling when my right hon. Friend was emphasising that particular point that women had had more chance of study than men, that it was a very curious reason on which to hang this very big departure from the principle which was previously laid down in 1925, and I should be very grateful if my right hon. Friend could give a little more detail on this point.
The point which my right hon. Friend made in reply to my question, that in fact there would be so very few ex-Service women entering the Civil Service that they had not been included in the general arrangements, I do not think is really a valid argument, because if the women would have preferred to have been treated on terms of equality, I think it is an unusual departure to have the Treasury protecting the interests of 1411 women in this way. I sometimes find in relation to women's questions, that Ministers think they are protecting the interests of women when they insist on bringing forward their own proposals, based on advice which has been tended to them, very often by men, rather than protecting the interests of women in the way women themselves would like their interests protected. It is a very curious feature of Government administration that Ministers are always so certain that they themselves are protecting the interests of women, when in fact their protection does not conform with the views of women themselves. At any rate, I should be very grateful for a little more information on this point, and I know that the National Association of Women Civil Servants would be grateful too.
In conclusion, I wish to say how much I welcome the Chancellor's statement about the appointment of Mr. Sinker. As a member of the Committee on National Expenditure, I thought, quite naturally, that their Report in the 1941–2 Session on the organisation of the Civil Service was admirable. I think some extremely interesting and profitable suggestions were put forward in that Report, and I know that following on the publication of that Report a committee was set up under my right hon. Friend's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Assheton), and I am very glad that, arising out of that committee, Mr. Sinker should be appointed. It is absolutely vital that we should bring the organisation of our Civil Service up-to-date and in step with all the most modern lines of development in business organisations. Therefore, I hope that the operation of the proposals of the Committee of my right hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe will not be long delayed.
I would like to make this comment, returning to my very great regret that this White Paper has attracted so little attention in the House of Commons. It seems to me that we show very small interest in the machinery of Government as a whole. We have very full Houses and stimulating and vigorous Debates on a wide number of questions, relating to social reform, to foreign policy, to industry and the export trade. Surely, it is fundamental to the success of this country, in future, that our machinery of Government should be as up-to-date and as all- 1412 embracing as it is possible to make it. I am tremendously surprised that we never take the opportunity of debating that machinery as it was debated yesterday, and as it has been debated from time to time during the war years, in another place. It is absolutely vital that our machinery should be in good trim and in first-class working order. I have nothing more to say, except to welcome the proposals in the White Paper, and to hope that the conditions of the Civil Service will be improved at the earliest possible moment.
§ 2.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I suffer from the disadvantage—although perhaps it is not altogether a disadvantage—of not having been connected, directly or indirectly, with the Civil Service, but, in common with many other Members, I have had an opportunity of coming into contact with a great number of civil servants. I am glad that the general trend of the Debate has been to pay a well-deserved tribute to a body of public servants who, in the main, have served this country well and loyally. Personally, the Civil Service is about the last career I would ever have wanted to follow. I said to one civil servant, "You seem to be cramped of all initiative, to be settled in some small Government Department, under the control of superiors whose only qualification has been years of docility and tacit acquiescence to the powers that be; and you enjoy very little opportunity of political expression." The civil servant, who was quite a sagacious man, and, unfortunately, had been put into this type of work by a somewhat zealous father, said, "I was advised to go in for an examination at a comparatively early age, and, unfortunately, passed it, and thus found myself a civil servant." I said, "What qualifications are required?" He said, "Firstly, loyalty, which means blind obedience; secondly, patience, because your hair will be tinged with silver before you get promotion, particularly if one has a spirit of defiance against reaction; and, thirdly, one must bow the knee to mediocrity, which one finds everywhere in the Civil Service."
I never had the advantage of a university education, but apparently promotion in the Civil Service depends upon the success achieved in university examinations. I once had an opportunity very 1413 early in this war, however, of being examined by civil servants when applying for a commission in the Royal Air Force, on the administrative side. I was taken into a room in a building in Kingsway, before a semi-circle of very imposing individuals some wearing gold braid, and one other, who, presumably was a civil servant. They questioned me about my educational qualifications, and I had to fill up a form, stating where I was born, who were my father and mother, and where they were born, if I was of true European descent, what schools I had been educated at, of what clubs I was a member, what particular subjects I had qualified in, and what examinations, if any, I had failed in. I was also asked to give the names of distinguished people in various walks of life who could vouch for my capacity, educational qualifications, and general good character.
I was sufficiently enthusiastic to want to succeed, and obtained a number of imposing signatures on my application form. I was full of vim, vigour, and vitality, pep, and punch, zeal and zip. At any rate, thus armed, I failed to convince them that I was a suitable candidate. I was asked—and this shows what the Civil Service have to put up with—if I could speak French. I said, in somewhat low tones, that I could. Then I was asked about the populations of various countries, and how I would go if I took a journey from Warsaw to Vladivostock. I answered that question in a way which led them to think that I had been over that journey—which was not the case. Then I was hurtled across the road, to have my ears and my eyes examined, together with my medical history, and that of my grandparents, who in one or two instances, I understand, reached the ripe age of 90 or 100. I passed all these tests. Thirteen weeks and four days later a communication arrived, saying they thanked me very much for my patriotic offer to help, but had to refuse the application, and that it was useless endeavouring to ascertain the reasons why I had been refused, as no correspondence on the matter could be entered into. That was the type of man I encountered on my only visit, and I shudder to think what happens to a man of zeal and energy if he entered the Civil Service. No wonder it has been the butt and target for comedians.
1414 I hope that there will be a bigger recruitment of women in the Civil Service, because women have many of the qualities which, I regret to say, are sadly lacking in men; and they would do much to improve the quality of the Service. The Government may have large nationalisation schemes for the future. I do not want to prognosticate, unduly, but if another type of Government came into power, perhaps there would be a shifting of the administration, and other Ministries might arise, requiring a different type of civil servant, or, at any rate, a civil servant with a different mentality. I am told that a very large proportion of those people who constitute, for example, the Foreign Office are the products of Eton, Harrow and some of the public schools. It is not amazing that the products of those schools, in the main, have a certain political outlook. That may well account for the policy which the Foreign Office has pursued. I would like to know to what extent—if, indeed, it would be admitted—political influence operates in the allocation of the higher posts which are given to civil servants.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
Would the hon. Gentleman deny that there are hon. and right hon. Members sitting on those benches whose sons have gone to Eton and Harrow?
§ Mr. Mack
I know there are many working men who, in the literal sense, have gone through the buildings, and have come out at the other end. But the vast majority of the working class never get a chance to go to Eton and Harrow, good though those institutions may be. With a proper society, it ought to be possible for any working boy, if he has the ability and skill——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
This discussion on the public schools is out of Order. It ought to have been reserved for the Education Bill.
§ Mr. Mack
I am very glad you have succoured me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It ought to be possible for typical working men and women to get into the Civil Service, and to get promotion. But unless better facilities are afforded for them to obtain the educational qualifications which are necessary, we shall still have in the Civil Service a type of individual who may be called, from our point of view, reactionary in outlook and mentality. 1415 That is one of the things we are going to keep on saying until we have remedied what we believe to be a one-sided system of recruitment.
I was pleased to note that, on this question of recruitment, due regard will be paid to those splendid men and women who have served us well in the Forces. I am glad that the Government are alive to that point, because we must never have it said that we failed to appreciate those services, and that individuals who have spent four, five, or even six years of the most impressionable and vital period of their lives in the Forces were denied the amplest opportunity of entering the Civil Service after the war. I have not gone into the question of remuneration in detail, but I feel that the whole question of improving their standard of life should be investigated. The Civil Service, after all, is a buttress to a Government, and in its corporate capacity helps to render smooth the multifarious plans which Governments bring into being; and moreover it is of great importance to the detailed administration of this country. It is essential that the men and women in that Service should be adequately paid, and given a certain dignity so far as their remuneration is concerned.
If that is done, I believe that it will open the door to a type of candidate, perhaps, of a higher potential capacity than heretofore. It is an amazing thing that, if a young man seeks a career and launches out in the City of London, there are many ways, in business and speculation, where he can acquire an enormous salary. On this question of salary, we get a music-hall artist of very indifferent capacity drawing £400 or £500 per week, while some of our finest members of the Civil Service and medical profession and even some Members of the Front Bench are working for what the Americans call "pea-nuts and chicken feed." That ought to be borne in mind. We will never get a proper system of society unless there is a sense of proportion, and not such great disparity between salaries as operates to-day. I trust that, in regard to civil servants, due regard will be paid to the question of their remuneration.
It is not satisfactory for a man to sit back in an office, with a thick carpet under his feet, and say to himself, "I have domestic anxieties and worries", 1416 like the policeman, who gets £5 or £6 a week, and a little pension tacked on at the end of an eventless career. I trust that those men of initiative who will be employed in the future, will feel that the Government are paying them on more generous terms than has been the case in the past. If that is to be the effect of this discussion, I think we shall have marched forward to some extent, and given these men who will be coming into the Service again the feeling that they are to be given a real part in the ruling and administration of their country.
§ 2.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Wootton-Davies (Heywood and Radcliffe)
My time is extremely limited and I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, but the House has now some opportunity of judging of the efficiency or otherwise of our Civil Service. When, however, my hon. Friend talked about remuneration, I would remind him that there is such a thing as fame. As Milton wrote in "Lycidas":Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise,(That last infirmity of noble mind).I think this country should thank heaven that we have a Civil Service such as we should have—a thing of the greatest integrity and also, I think, of the greatest intelligence. But I would like to say that I think we, Members of the House of Commons, are perhaps the greatest curse of the Civil Service. In business, I might speculate, and, if I am a right judge of the times, I make money. If my men are right for 60 per cent. of the time, they are good, but we Members of the House of Commons will not let this very intelligent Civil Service make mistakes. If they make the slightest mistake, we pillory them here. I would like to see the top men in the Service really well paid. Big organisations and cartels can afford to pay people well; they have their own political organisations and advisers. Very often, they are infinitely better paid than civil servants, and there is a danger in this country that we are not going to get the very best men. I now come to the particular point which I wish to mention. In Part II of the White Paper, at the bottom of page 5, there are the lines:We hope shortly to extend our consideration to the professional, scientific and technical classes, which, though smaller, are equally important.1417 I am one of those people who think that this country must make much more use of science, and I hope that, when the time comes, these technical and scientific men will be considered, and not only on the narrow issue as scientific and technical men. I once asked you, Mr. Speaker, if an economist was not a scientist. I want to see more economists in the Civil Service. We must have men who can sell things. We are going to have much more governmental control in our lives, and especially in industry, in the future, and it is essential that we should have the best chemists, the best engineers, the best economists and the best market men. Up to now, these men have been working in these Departments largely for the love of it, largely as a vocation. We must greatly extend the scope. I do not think we are going to get the right men unless we approach this matter in a very different manner. Having decided to pay these men properly, we must put them in a proper relationship to the administrative staff. They must not play second fiddle. I believe that people, such as those referred to in the two lines I have quoted, are the people on whom our future life is going to depend, and, having drawn attention to that point, I keep my promise not to detain the House for more than a few minutes.
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I think we have had an important discussion to-day, and, when my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) expresses regret that this House has not been filled, I would remind her of two facts. First, some of us, who usually sit on these benches, are to-day in what I might call another place, and, further, the absence from these benches of a large number of hon. Members is due to the almost complete unanimity with which they support the proposals of the Government. When the House is full, it is generally a sign of a controversial atmosphere and an indication that a division is going to take place at the end. I, for my part, am certainly not going to depart from the atmosphere of kindliness towards the Government which has broadly characterised our Debate to-day.
I believe that, certainly in all the principal details, this scheme is one that should commend itself to the common sense of this House, not merely because 1418 it is the joint production, according to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), of himself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but because we have here, I think, a Report which has studied the interests of all sections, and, at any rate to the lay mind, has, to a very large extent, met the requirements of a large section of persons who desire to enter into the Civil Service. This House has a very special duty with regard to these servants of the Government, and its duty is of two kinds. First, it is to secure the greatest efficiency of this Civil Service, which is the finest in the world to-day, and like which there has never been anything in the history of the past. Where we should be without our Civil Service, I do not know, but I am quite sure that my party in particular are absolutely determined that the Civil Service should be efficient, and that, from our point of view, the efficiency of the Civil Service is essential to the future government of the country. But it is not sufficient that the Civil Service should be efficient. I am not quite sure whether any other speaker has mentioned the point, though I have only been absent from the Debate for a quarter of an hour. The age distribution of the Civil Service must be sound, and it was one of the serious defects of the policy pursued after the last war that the age distribution was disorganised. As I understand it, the Civil Service may be in some difficulty in the early future owing to that disorganisation of the age distribution which occurred as a result of the policy pursued after the last war. I am very glad to see, therefore, that some steps are being taken to prevent that happening again.
In addition to making sure of the efficiency and correct age distribution of the Civil Service, I think this House has a duty to those members of the public who are hoping to earn their living by the public services which they can perform through the Civil Service of the country, and, finally, I think this House has a duty to preserve the balance equally with regard to the sexes in this matter, and I shall have a word to say presently about what the hon. Member for Wallsend said just now. I was one of those who very strongly criticised stopping the competitive examinations in the Civil Service at the beginning of the war. In the conditions then 1419 prevailing, I thought, contrary to the Financial Secretary of the time, who is now, I think, the Postmaster-General, that these competitive examinations ought to have continued, and I have no reason to think that I was wrong. I do not say they should have gone on throughout the war, but I think they were stopped, at any rate, far too soon, and I think it would have been better for the Civil Service had they been continued. However, it is no good going back over the past; we are now faced with the proposals for the future.
I am bound to say that I think these proposals are much fairer to applicants than seemed likely when I made my protest, because I was judging, of course, by what happened after the last war, when certain classes were definitely shut out, owing to the age distribution, and large numbers of boys and girls, who had been training all through their junior lives, with the hope and expectancy of becoming civil servants, never had a chance of coming in at all. If I understand the present proposals aright, that will not be the case this time, because I understand that every boy and girl who would have been eligible for the examination at the beginning of the war will find their upper age limit so extended that they will have the chance of coming in now. I think I am interpreting it rightly, but, perhaps, if I am wrong, the Financial Secretary will put me right. May I congratulate this Committee and the Government in adopting a principle which is so much more fair to the boys and girls, who are certainly men and women by this time, who were not allowed to take part in the competitions for the Civil Service owing to the opening of the war?
With regard to the question of the interview, I listened with interest to the account given by my hon. Friend behind me. I think we all recognise the grave dangers of a success or failure of a candidate by the impression formed by one or two persons taking the interview. When you have a written examination you have something which is not subject to the bias of the examiner. When you have an interview there is always some risk that some particular bias in the examiner's mind will go either in favour of, or against a particular candidate. That is a very grave danger and we must always 1420 be prepared to guard against it, but I am not prepared, in consequence of that, to rule out an interview which enables you to form a judgment of a candidate's merits. Any suggestion that it has been tainted by a political bias or a social bias should be very carefully watched, because that would be a very grave danger indeed.
I would like to inquire how far these interviewers are going to be persons really qualified to undertake that task. They should be persons of knowledge and great breadth of view and able to distinguish between a man's ability to express his views and the character and complexion of the views that he expresses. They want to have a good measure of psychology. It may be that young men or young women in their teens may be very nervous and very modest and yet it does not at all follow, when they reach full maturity, and the age of discretion and later life, they may not have the full characters required in the positions which they seek. I do not think that even psychology is enough. There is a great deal of new thought being brought into the matter of estimating the qualities of individuals. There are certain people called anthropologists, who have their views upon dividing up the human race into different categories. I do not know enough about that to judge. It is a comparatively new science and it may be that it is too early to express ideas of that kind. I hope that those who are claiming this individual examination will not shut out from their minds any new scientific approaches to the discretionery analysis of the gifts and qualifications of individuals, both for the purposes of deciding whether they are suitable to be brought into the Civil Service and as to the kind of work to which they should be set if they succeed in their entry.
I should like to say a word with regard to dates. As I read the Report, the termination of the war date, T-Day, is tentatively to be put at 31st December, 1944, and I am afraid that it seems only too likely that T-Day will be considerably later than that. I would like to ask the Financial Secretary, when he comes to reply, whether I have rightly read the recommendations of the White Paper to be these, that for every day that T-Day is later than 31st December, 1944, almost all the dates in the White Paper 1421 will be postponed by an equivalent number of days, the age limit for entry and all the rest of it will be postponed to that extent.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peake) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
The Financial Secretary agrees, I understand, with the interpretation I have put on these proposals. With regard to the nature of the examinations, when boys and girls come straight from school or young men and young women come from their university, the last two or three years of their life before they come out has been devoted to a certain amount of book knowledge and when you subject them to examination, it is natural that you should examine them on the kind of subjects they have been studying during those last two or three years. The fact that they do well or ill in that is not merely a sign that they have acquired a certain amount of knowledge, but is a sign that, in the work which they have been doing, they have taken a reasonable and intelligent interest and have come to certain reasonable conclusions. When a man has left his collegiate occupation for five or ten years, whether he remembers certain things in history he learnt five or six years ago or whether he can do certain sums or certain other things, is not so much a test of his general intelligence, as a test of pure memory as to how far the facts which were impressed on his mind all those years back have remained. Particularly is that the case with ex-Servicemen. They have gone through a gruelling test in a world entirely removed in many cases, except in the technical branches of the Forces, from their scholastic education.
Therefore, it is right that an entirely different sort of examination should be the one imposed upon these people, who, instead of entering the examination at the end of their school career, have had this enormous interval of several years and are now at 21 or 22, it may be in certain cases 24, 28 or 29, confronted with an examination years after the scholastic part of their life has come to an end. As I understand it, all that is to be taken into account, and perhaps the Financial Secretary will say a word or two as to that. I would add that the ex-Serviceman will be at a disadvantage compared with the man who has been in 1422 civil life, because he will be further removed from his educational career, not necessarily by years, but by the matters to which he has had to devote his mind in the intervening period. I personally, would like to see the ex-Serviceman—and possibly even the civilian—given an opportunity of having another turn at the slightly more scholastic side of life, if he is so disposed. If the ex-Serviceman has gone from an interrupted educational course into the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, I hope that he will be allowed, if he wishes, to have a short period of continuing his educational life before he has to take the examination. Therefore, I am pleading for a short interval between his demobilisation and the necessity of his taking this competitive examination.
I want to say a word with regard to the question of temporary civil servants. The paragraphs referring to these are those on page 13. It has been represented to me that the governing words are in paragraph 36, the second half of the first sentence, which reads:We recommend that a proportion of the accrued vacancies in the junior executive and junior clerical grades should be reserved for the best of the available temporary staff between the ages of 30 and 50.A certain number of temporary civil servants have represented to me that that sentence implies the degrading and reducing in salary of some temporary civil servants of the executive class who get established positions. Personally, I am inclined to read paragraph 36 in conjunction with the four previous paragraphs on the page, and I certainly myself should not have put the interpretation that they appear to put on those words. But it does not in the least matter what I think about it. That is of no consequence at all. What is important is what the Government mean by it. Therefore, I shall be glad if the Financial Secretary—I am sorry I did not give him notice of this but I think it is a point with which he can easily deal—can tell us this. I understand that temporary civil servants are not complaining that there will be only a comparatively small proportion kept on, but what they are complaining of is that, if men are kept on, they should be among the best and not among merely the lower grade execu- 1423 tive officers. Can we be assured that, where a man in a fairly high position in the executive class is kept on, he will not by virtue of the sentence I have read out be forced to come down to the junior grade which is referred to in paragraph 36?
I now want to come to the point which was raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend. The position of ex-Service women entrants is still rather obscure to me. I put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer while he was speaking but I am still rather obscure about it. I want to put what I understand to be my interpretation of the rule with regard to ex-Servicemen and ex-Service women and I would like the Financial Secretary to tell me whether I am right, and, if I am wrong, what are the real facts. As I understand it, the statistics on which the White Paper is based are these, that the number of ex-Service men in the clerical classes of the Civil Service would be something below 50 per cent., I think, about 42 per cent. The Government are proposing, therefore, that a percentage slightly above the existing percentage should be retained for ex-Service men and that even if the entrants to the examination of ex-Service men are below 50 per cent. of the whole, nevertheless, 50 per cent. of the qualified posts will be accorded to them, provided they reach a certain standard of efficiency.
As I understand it, the women are to get nothing in excess of the proportion; they are to be given places in the Civil Service exactly in proportion to their entries in any particular examination. They feel, therefore, that they are not getting as much preference as is given to the men in those circumstances. I finish by repeating what I said at the beginning, that this Paper is admirable and does seem to me to deal with all the requirements. I believe it will be found to serve the interests both of the country and of those seeking positions in the Civil Service.
§ It being Three o'clock and there being Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding stood postponed.