HC Deb 13 January 1992 vol 201 cc665-6
39. Mr. Burns

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what plans he has to introduce a dress code for civil servants in departmental Ministries in London.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Tim Renton)

Matters such as standards of dress are the responsibility of managers in Departments and agencies. The Employment Service has recently introduced guidance on standards of dress and the Benefits Agency has introduced a range of distinctive dress.

Mr. Burns

Although the majority of people would not want to revert stuffily to the strict dress code for civil servants of the 1950s, does my right hon. Friend agree that the pendulum may have swung too far the other way? Do not male civil servants now sometimes turn up at work wearing ponytails, earrings, jeans or, in the summer, even Lycra shorts?

Mr. Renton

I appreciate the high taste in satorial elegance for which my hon. Friend is well known. However, the responsibility and wish of most managers, whether in Departments or executive agencies, is simply to want those who work for them to be reasonably presentable. I must confess that I would prefer to see a pigtail with an earring rather than the traditional civil service bowler hat.

Mr. Skinner

Is there a possibility that in the new-fangled classless society the Prime Minister will give special OBEs, MBEs and CBEs for the different coloured dress codes of civil servants? Is there not a rumour that if they all dress in grey and follow the Prime Minister's example, they can all ride in a special railway carriage without a typist in sight?

Mr. Renton

As the hon. Gentleman introduced the subject of colour of dress, I can only say that I have been listening to him for almost 18 years and I wish that he would sometimes change the colour of his tie. It would be nice if, just for once, he did not wear a red tie.