Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Servants (Political Activities)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 1949.

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The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Heston and Isleworth

—To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he now has any further statement to make concerning the Masterman Report on the Political Activities of Civil Servants.

Photo of Mr Douglas Houghton Mr Douglas Houghton , Sowerby

—To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has now any further statement to make concerning the Masterman Report on civil rights for civil servants.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

With permission, I should like to answer Questions No. 61 and No. 67. As my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council announced on 28th July, the Government agreed to take no action for the time being to give effect to the recommendations of the Masterman Report. The Government have since taken account of the repretations made by the National Staff Side at a Meeting of the National Whitley Council on 22nd July, and have now decided to give immediate effect to that part of the Report which frees certain categories of civil servants from existing restrictions. For the rest of the Civil Service they have decided to instruct each Department to maintain in force until the end of next year the practice which prevailed before the Report was received, with a view to the matter being further reconsidered towards the end of that time.

The Staff Side of the National Whitley Council have been informed of this decision and immediate steps will be taken to put it into effect.

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Heston and Isleworth

In thanking my right hon. Friend for that statement, and particularly for that part which relates to what we call the "minor and manipulative grades," may I ask if he is aware that one other part of the statement will not be regarded as quite so satisfactory by Members of this House and the people concerned? I refer to the other grades in the Civil Service. It was the desire of Members in all parts of the House that there should be the maximum possible political liberty for all civil servants. Will the Financial Secretary ask his right hon. and learned Friend if he will consider discussing further this aspect with the National Staff Side?

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

I think I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. At the proper time, as I have already said, this matter will be reconsidered. Any suggestions which the Staff Side may have to make will then be fully considered and taken into account.

Photo of Mr Douglas Houghton Mr Douglas Houghton , Sowerby

Does the statement of my right hon. Friend mean that these discussions, in which the Staff Side of the National Whitley Council have already been invited to take part, are now to be deferred for a further 12 months, and if that is the intention behind the statement will my right hon. Friend reconsider it and authorise the discussions to proceed immediately?

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

No, Sir. I have indicated that the reconsideration will have to take place towards the end of next year and I am afraid I cannot go back on that statement.

Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey

Does the statement of the right hon. Gentleman mean that, for the time being at any rate, there are no outstanding differences between the Government and the Staff Side of the National Whitley Council?

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

I did not say that. I said that so far as nearly half a million civil servants are concerned, the report will be implemented. So far as the remainder are concerned, the present practice will be continued until the matter is reconsidered in the course of a year or so.

Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey

Which are the half million?

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

Does my right hon. Friend intend issuing the Report so that the people concerned and those interested will know in detail those who are being considered in a favourable light and those who are not?

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

The Report is now in the Vote Office and my hon. Friend can get a copy at any time.

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

Will the right hon. Gentleman say why it is necessary to postpone the discussions for another 12 months? The reason is not clear. Cannot they be undertaken earlier?

Photo of Mr Louis Tolley Mr Louis Tolley , Kidderminster

Will my right hon. Friend give really serious consideration to the question of this long postponement? Surely, there is no purpose behind it other than that possibly in 12 months' time the same decision which he is suggesting will be re-introduced, and in view of the uncertainty, will my right hon. Friend now say that there is no other purpose behind the postponement?

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

I will, of course, see that my right hon. and learned Friend is made aware of the questions now being asked and the point of view that has been expressed. I must make it quite clear, however, that in the statement I have made, a great advance has been achieved and that so far as other grades are concerned the status quo will meanwhile continue.

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Heston and Isleworth

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that there is a very strong feeling in the House that now is the opportune time to resolve this problem, which has been exercising the minds of the people in the Service for many years; and what purpose can there be in deferring it for another 12 months or more?