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Public Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:37 pm on 24th October 2001.

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Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench 5:37 pm, 24th October 2001

My Lords, perhaps I may say how grateful I am for the warmth of the welcome and the generous support that I have received from everyone associated with your Lordships' House. I also express my gratitude to the many noble Lords who have called me "young man" on more occasions in the past three months than has happened over the past 30 years. It has enormously pleased me and I have revised my life expectancy accordingly!

Our country is at its best when we have a vibrant and successful private sector complemented by an efficient, confident and just public sector. I have been privileged to work in both. The service ethos is certainly not unique to the public sector. It runs through the private sector as well. Both sectors bring complementary benefits to our society. Having spent most of my life in the public sector, I can say that the service ethos is at the core of job satisfaction in that sector. The sense of vocation and service, the sense of serving one's fellow citizen, is vital to attracting, retaining and motivating people within the public sector.

Earlier speakers asked whether the service ethos was alive and well in the public sector. Like them, I believe that it is alive and well--but I suggest that at present it is "under-nourished". We owe it to the public sector to find ways to nurture, to celebrate and to encourage the service ethos within it. That could be done very efficiently in three ways.

There are three aspects on which I shall comment briefly: recognition, respect and reward. Recognition is vital for those serving in the public sector. So often our public services are denigrated and criticised. We must find more innovative ways to describe their successes not just in terms of overall services but in terms of the many individuals within those services at all levels who carry out on a daily basis acts of heroism and dedication way above and beyond the normal call of duty whether that is in nursing, policing, the fire service, teaching, the health service or in the many other services which serve us so well.

In speaking of recognition, I was disappointed to hear yesterday in your Lordships' House that not a single police officer will currently receive a Jubilee Medal to celebrate Her Majesty's glorious reign. I admire the notion that medals will be given to uniformed military personnel with five or more years' service, but I believe that the same criteria should be applied to the police service. I have done some research and I understand that that would cost just in excess of £2 million. I believe that that would be money well spent to celebrate the service of policemen and women to Her Majesty the Queen.

I turn to the issue of respect. Our major public services are quite properly due for reform, in many cases long overdue reform. However, they would like their professional views to be respected and to be considered at the table of reform. The enlightened members of those professions know that they must reform, but they would like their views respected.

On the issue of reward, no one goes into the public sector for wealth creation, or, if they do, they are more likely to face a prison sentence than a knighthood because their activities will almost certainly be unlawful. However, they do not want their service to be exploited. They do not want their sense of vocation to lead to hardship. We must be careful to review the necessary pay and review bodies which ensure that our vital public services are kept up to date in terms of pay and conditions.

Finally, I have spent the past two weeks in America where I have seen how the celebration of the emergency services and the public services generally has provided a rallying point for patriotism, hope, optimism and plans for the future. I do not believe that we need to await or contemplate a similar tragedy here before we seek to recognise, respect and reward our own equally brave services personnel who contribute so much to our life. I commend the Motion to your Lordships.