|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Tyler: I am closely following the hon. Gentleman's argument and support him in it, but does he agree that it was not only the calling of witnesses, in which the Select Committee did have a reasonable success rate, but getting information in the form of e-mails and other written material out of Whitehall that was the real success of the Hutton exercise?
Mr. Tyrie: Rather than detain the House, I shall simply commend to the hon. Gentleman the Liaison Committee document, "Scrutiny of Government: Select Committees after Hutton. Note by the Clerks." It is well worth taking a look at. I hope that I have not inadvertently obtained something that is not yet in the public domainI cannot remember quite how it came my way. The document is replete with interesting points, including one that has a direct bearing on the subject raised by the hon. Gentleman.
It is fair to say that if we had a civil service Act, Members of Parliament would feel that the civil service was ultimately accountable to them, and I think that in the long run the relationship between this place and the civil service would change fundamentally. Ultimately, therefore, the question is far deeper than merely whether the rather quaintly titled Osmotherly rules would be swept aside; it ranges into what we as a Parliament should do. I have never believed that Parliament should be able ultimately to block what the Government want. But I have always believed that Parliament's job is to force the Government to explain their actions. I have always believed that the Select Committee process is crucial. Our Parliament is, in that respect, much weaker than most other democratic assemblies in the world.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): Bearing in mind my earlier intervention, I rise with a degree of reticence to speak about part 2 of the draft Bill. However, as no one else has done so, it is important to say something about it. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) said that it was the least important part of the draft Bill, but later stated that the civil service should be founded on selection on merit. If part 2 is of no importance, first, why have its provisions been incorporated into the Bill that was presented to Parliament a couple of weeks ago? Secondly, why and how should we achieve selection on merit when there are so many anomalies in the nationality rules, which prevent so many from joining the civil service?
The Bill advocated by the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) is based on the Select Committee's draft Bill, part 2 of which is based on the ten-minute Bill that I introduced last year and reintroduced yesterday, with the leave of the House. As I mentioned earlier, 21 Conservative Members voted against my Bill yesterday at the instigation of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). They included, rather bizarrely, the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Liddell-Grainger), who voted for the Select Committee report, voted against the provisions of part 2 yesterday, and presumably will vote in favour of the Opposition motion today. It remains to be seen how he will vote when the issue next arises, on 30 January. Perhaps he will switch sides yet again, rivalling Winston Churchill's record for the number of times he changed sides on one issue. Perhaps the real question is whether the 21 Members in question will have the courage of their convictions and vote against the Tory Whip this afternoon, or whether, if they vote with their Whip this afternoon, they will change sides and support my Bill on 30 January.
In his reply to my intervention, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe said that if I was of that mind, I should vote with the Opposition today. The obvious answer to that is that I do not need to. Because an actual Bill, not a draftmy ten-minute Billis
Mr. Heald: Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to pledge that on Friday 30 January he will not make a great long speech on one of the two Bills that are ahead of the Civil Service Bill in the business for that day? He has a bit of form in that respect.
Mr. Dismore: Perhaps I can make a pact with the hon. Gentleman. If he can persuade his right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst to adopt a Trappist vow in relation to my Bill, I shall consider his request in relation to the other Bills listed in that Friday's business. I am not minded to talk out those two Bills, but I make no promise in respect of future Bills. In fact, bearing in mind what the right hon. Gentleman did yesterday, perhaps I should start speaking against ten-minute Bills of no merit proposed by Opposition Members, so that we do not have to waste time on Fridays debating them. Rather than trying to talk them out on a Friday, I could simply go for the kill right at the beginning of the process when a ten-minute Bill is proposed on the Floor of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman has adopted that tactic, perhaps I should do the same.
Let me take this opportunity to answer some of the points raised by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst in yesterday's debate. He betrayed his antipathy towards any form of multiculturalism, even though my Bill is not about multiculturalism, or immigration, or anything else of that nature. It is simply about correcting anomalies, which I outlined yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman is not in his place today, which is a pityno doubt as an assiduous reader of Hansard he will read my remarks tomorrowbut yesterday he said that he welcomed people coming from overseas if they have skills and a contribution to make. Despite saying that, he seemed prepared to deny the public services the right to employ such people, in effect denying the British public the services of people who have skills and a contribution to make. It seems to me that if people who have something to offer come here from overseas, we should not put any barriers in the way of their making a contribution to our society in every way they can, which may well involve working in the civil service.
I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman consider the position of skilled migrant workers who are here for a short period, or for several years, and who would like both to gain experience of the UK's systems despite all the criticism that we have heard today, our civil service is among the best in the worldand to use the lessons thus learned to help to improve their own country's civil service on their return home. I mentioned yesterday the communities in my constituency of asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan who have been granted refugee status, many of whom are highly skilled
Mr. Heald: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me on a serious point. Is it not important for him to mention that his proposals would still allow us to specify certain positions that are not open to foreign nationals, if that could be justified?
Mr. Dismore: The hon. Gentleman is correct. Under existing arrangements, there are limited procedures to enable foreign nationals to be recruited to the civil service. If I recall correctly, just over 40 certificates have been issued. However, that does not answer the hon. Gentleman's question. The civil service has to show either that no British national has the relevant skills or that the foreign national has exceptional skills to justify the issue of such a certificate. In fact, three quarters of those certificates are issued by the Ministry of Defence, not the civil service.
That brings me to the question of recruitment to the civil service. Under existing rules, 9 per cent. of Londoners350,000 peopleare excluded entirely from the civil service. In the United Kingdom as whole, 850,000 people are excluded. Nevertheless, the state still has to provide services to those people. The civil service should reflect the society that it serves. The very fact that it cannot recruit those people results in greater costs to the civil service. What about language skills? In my constituency, nearly 200 different languages are spoken. If civil servants were recruited from those backgrounds they would be able to communicate with people in my constituency in their own language, thus making savings on expensive language services. Such people are also aware of those communities' cultural ties and needs, and can respond more effectively when dealing with individuals from such backgrounds.
If the boot is on the other foot and people have worked as civil servants in their own country, they may be able to use their experience to make a contribution to the development of our own civil service. That is important in relation to state security. For example, we may want to recruit people from overseas to Customs and Excise but we cannot do so. How can we tackle drug or people smuggling effectively if we cannot recruit people from the nations where those offences originate to infiltrate gangs, expose them and help to arrest the individuals responsible for serious crimes? We cannot combat drug or people smuggling effectively because we cannot recruit the people whom we need to Customs and Excise so that they can tackle those activities.
Similarly, if we genuinely want to promote trade, why cannot we recruit people to the Department of Trade and Industry from an overseas background? Again, they have a great deal to offer the civil service and could help to develop our sales pitch to overseas nations. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst had a fetish