Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Service – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

There are currently about 170 posts in grades 1 and 2 of the civil service. All appointments in these top grades have been subject to the consent of the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson, Shadow Spokesperson

Does the Prime Minister see some dangers there? Maintaining the previous Prime Minister's attitude to the selection of senior civil servants—"Is he one of ours?"—will lead to the politicisation of the civil service at the top level, and I believe that that has happened. Would it not be better either to move over to a "spoils" system —which would at least do away with all the hypocrisy, and would be more honest and open—or to appoint civil servants via a Select Committee, or through some other all-party approach?

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

Those comments are unworthy of the hon. Gentleman. I am glad to say that his thoughts are not shared by Opposition Front Benchers. I can only assume that it was from his previous experience as chairman of the Greater London council in 1985–86 that he learnt all about "getting your friends appointed to the key jobs", and that that is why he assumes that the same is happening in the civil service now. It is not; the top people are appointed solely on the basis of their merit and intelligence.

Photo of Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is sad to hear the ex-leader of the Greater London council, who appointed people purely on political merit, suggest that senior civil servants are chosen on anything other than ability? Would it not be a sad day for this country if that attitude of mind took hold? We are well served by our civil servants. Although Governments come and go, governance in the civil service sector of this country continues untainted.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

I agree with my hon. Friend. The civil service procedures for the most senior appointments are well established. They have been supported by both sides of the House for many years. They are based on ability to do the job. I do not believe that we should cast aside at all lightly the all-party support for these methods.