Outward secondments increased from 632 in 1983 to 679 in 1985, and inward secondments from 133 to 227. Figures for 1986 are expected to be available in April this year, but the Government are working for a continued expansion in secondments.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that information. Can he assure us that the Government will do everything that they can to expand the number of incoming secondments to the Civil Service, as the programme brings great benefit to the Civil Service and to industry? Could not the benefits to industry be more widely acknowledged by industry?
I agree with my hon. Friend. As he has seen from the figures, there are fewer inward secondments than outward secondments, and I am anxious to persuade industry and other sectors to lend some of their people to the Civil Service for a period of, say, two years. It does good to the Civil Service and should help it. The more that we can persuade industry, the better, and I shall continue my efforts in that direction.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that politicians who enter this place having had experience in commerce and industry are perhaps more alert politicians? Is it not healthy that civil servants should be seconded into industry so that they know what the outside world is all about?
I do not know whether my hon. Friend is volunteering for secondment, but I agree that there is great value in officials having experience of the outside world. That two-year period can bring enormous benefits when they come back to the Civil Service. That is why I am increasing the target for the number of civil servants who should be seconded outside.