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Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not repeat too much of yesterday's debate, and will look at the motion under discussion.

Mr. Dismore: I certainly accept the point that you are making, Madam Deputy Speaker, but part 2 of the Bill proposed by the Opposition deals entirely with those issues. I am trying to respond to some of the points that were made yesterday but which I did not deal with in the speech that I made then.

If someone is given British nationality, that is no guarantee of their commitment to this country and our security. That commitment can best be shown by a willingness to work in our public services. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst was concerned about the natural suspicion of foreign nationals that, he felt, was rampant throughout the country.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to a Member who participated in the debate yesterday, but has not participated in the debate today.

Mr. Dismore: Very well, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I could put it this way. It has been suggested that there is a suspicion of foreign nationals throughout the country. I challenge that, but even if it were the case, it is a reflection of the un-national, irrational xenophobia often displayed by Opposition Members. Some of the people about whom we are concerned, such as Mr. Abu Hamza, are British nationals and could join the civil service. By the same token, the widow of a British victim of 11 September could not, because she is an American national.

There is discrimination against Commonwealth and Irish citizens under existing arrangements, as they are excluded from applying for 25 per cent. of civil service posts. In fact, only 10 per cent. of posts need to be restricted on grounds of nationality for security reasons, but the definition of public service effectively excludes such people from 25 per cent. of those posts. There are severe illogicalities and anomalies in the system. For example, the wife of a British citizen who is a Chinese, Russian or Japanese national is forbidden from joining the civil service, but the Chinese, Russian or Japanese wife of a French citizen living in the United Kingdom is permitted to join the civil service. Surely, it is not right that the spouse of a foreigner can join the civil service but the spouse of a Briton cannot. As an illustration, I recently received an e-mail from Mr. Martin—

Mr. Pound: Not Tony.

Mr. Dismore: No, not Tony Martin.

Mr. Martin says:

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Mr. Martin goes on to say:

He later told me on the telephone that his wife had applied for a job with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency—we should encourage people from overseas to apply for such jobs because they can communicate effectively with individuals in other countries operating ships and aircraft—but was excluded from it on nationality grounds. That is cutting off our nose to spite our face.

I have tried to show that existing rules cause great distress, not just to people from overseas who would like to work for our civil service but to UK citizens who are their spouses. More importantly, they undermine the ethos of our civil service, which should, as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe said, be open to appointment on merit with the exception of the 10 per cent. of jobs that have to be reserved to UK nationals for operational reasons. At the same time, those rules do not reflect the society that we serve. Part 2 of the Opposition's Bill is important, so I hope that they will support my ten-minute Bill when it receives its Second Reading. [Interruption.]

2.57 pm

Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con): I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the conversation that I was just having with my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie). I also apologise to the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) for not being present for all of his speech. He had the courtesy to write to me to say that he was going to mention me in his speech. Unfortunately, however, I had to attend a sitting of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, as a report is being signed off at the moment.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Tony Wright), who steered his Committee through an interesting, frustrating and at times downright difficult process. Having taken evidence from witnesses and undertaken many other tasks, we succeeded in publishing a draft Bill. The hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White) was the single dissenting voice, but his minority report made interesting reading in its own right, because he raised many of the things that the Government will have to face when they introduce their Bill in this Session.

When I first came to the House, I did not have a view on whether or not there should be a civil service Bill. The Minister may not like this, but I changed my mind after a Select Committee visit to Bristol. We took evidence from hospital staff, teachers and many others in preparation for a report on the ethos of the civil service. We discovered an endemic culture of bullying and targets, and found that an all-pervading top-down ethos was being pumped into the people who were least able to defend themselves. I changed my mind about the need for legislation after meeting people at a certain level who found it almost impossible to get their voice heard. They did not believe that they could go to the top—they did not think that they would be listened to by the Minister or other Government members and they did not believe

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that the civil service was in a position to do something about their problems. That may not be what they were trying to convey, but I got the intense impression that it is what they were thinking.

As the hon. Member for Cannock Chase said, it is vital that the process by which the Bill is brought before the House and becomes law is bipartisan. When I first heard about the debate, I was fairly vociferous in expressing my views to my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald), who said that it would take place in the spirit of teasing out of the Government when the draft Bill was to be produced. The Government have now committed themselves to that, for which I must thank them.

What is the definition of a civil servant? As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) said, a civil servant should be a person who is paid for by the Crown—in other words, by the Government. I agree. Our report states:

It seems incredible to me that in this day and age we cannot arrive at a definition—it is not beyond the wit of man to do that. One can say that it should cover level 1, 2, 3 or 4 civil servants, or the whole lot. I believe that all civil servants need the right to protection from the Government or anyone else, and that only this place can give it. To me, the fundamental definition of a civil servant is someone who is paid out of the public purse.

I want, if I may, to go slightly further. When we took witness statements, it became obvious that almost everybody saw the need for legislation of some kind. That is endemic in the Jo Moore–Sixsmith affair that started all this. When I came to this place, I had no experience of special advisers—I had not been one, I had never met one, and I did not know what they did. All I knew was that Tony Benn had two of them, because he said so in his diaries some years ago. According to those diaries, they did exactly what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe said—that is, they advised the Minister, and nothing more. They did not, for example, give executive orders. An enormous shift has taken place since then.

The Committee referred to the Library document, "Whither the Civil Service?", as part of our 2002 investigation into the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions affair. It states:


I entirely agree with that. We discussed the Sixsmith-Jo Moore affair at enormous length, but we could not call them when they were employed by the Government. We could have done so afterwards, but things had moved on.

The role of special advisers has to be reviewed. As they are political, they must come under the control of this place. A special adviser is there to advise, not to administer—if that is required, another Minister should

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be appointed. The DTLR report—I would commend it to the Minister—examines where the Government and the civil service went wrong. Perhaps it would have made a difference if the permanent secretary had stood up and been a bit more vociferous, or if the Secretary of State had been a little more in tune with what was going on, or if we had pushed the matter a bit further in place. But without legislation, we could not find out what was going on until it was too late. I do not wish harm to any special adviser, but to say that one is going to bury bad news on the day of a catastrophe is not the way to do business in anybody's eyes, as I am sure the Minister would agree.

I remember Ministers—not this Minister—saying to the Committee, "This was in our manifesto in 1997 and has been in it before—I'm sorry it has taken so long." I would have thought the Government's own civil service would say that legislation is vital. Certainly, when the noble Lords Wilson, Butler and Armstrong came before the Committee there was no doubt that they thought that there had to be some form of protection. They were incredibly capable men—the most impressive witnesses we have had, with the possible exception of Sir Andrew Turnbull—as heads of the civil service. I did not agree with everything that they said, but I fundamentally accepted that they knew better than we did, given their longevity of service. It was interesting to talk to Lord Wilson in a private capacity when I happened to bump into him. He was very keen to get the Bill launched, either in the Lords or here. He felt that unless something happened soon, the frustration of many people, including civil servants, would boil over. That is why today's announcement by the Government is so vital.

The witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee were of incredibly high quality. When the Government consult on the Bill, I urge them to talk, in an open and frank manner, to those people, because we—another colleague, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan), has just come in—gained a phenomenal depth of understanding in a very short time. I do not believe that hon. Members will seriously contest the Bill, although it will be tinkered with through amendments and suggestions, but that does not mean that we should not consult on it beforehand. I suspect that the Minister may find that the hon. Member for Cannock Chase and his Committee may look at the matter again—we may even move our own amendments.

I wonder how such a Bill will be affected by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which comes into force in 2005. Will it mean that Select Committees are able to call for people whom we cannot call at the moment?

Having started from a point where I did not see the need for a Bill, I am now firmly wedded to it. We need it as a matter of urgent priority. Having listened to hon. Members, it is clear to me that it has the backing of the House. If the Minister wants to try to avoid some of the more ridiculous things that have happened in the past, and will happen in future—an article by Mr. Peter Riddell in The Times gave a clear account of that—one way of doing that is through openness and an Act that will give civil servants the protection that they require from this place, so that they at least know to whom they can turn when all else fails.

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