The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Jim Murphy): The civil service is broadly representative of society in terms of gender and ethnicity. More than half its employees are women and 8.2 per cent. are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. A programme of action to achieve greater diversity will be published later this year.
Keith Vaz: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment as a Minister. May I remind him that it is not the political will that we question but the implementation of policies? Very few black or Asian people and very few women are in the most senior positions in the civil service. When will we be able to implement the action plans so that the civil service, especially the senior civil service, in England and Wales looks like Britain?
Mr. Murphy: I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words, and I pay tribute to the work that he has carried out over a number of years. Progress has been made on this important issue. The number of folk from black and ethnic minority backgrounds in senior positions in the civil service has doubled over the past seven years. However, more can be done. I look forward to working with my hon. Friend on this issue. Work is being done with universities to reach students, to work with career advisers and to examine the issue of appointments to public bodies.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I too welcome the appointment of the new Minister. In the answers that he has given to this question so far, is he saying that he is satisfied that the civil service is an equal opportunities employer already, or that reform needs to be made to bring about that happy state of affairs? If the civil service is already a satisfactory employer, why is he saying that more reform is needed? If it is not a satisfactory employer, why is he satisfied with the situation as it stands?
Mr. Murphy: Again, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words of congratulation. It is clear that the civil service is in need of reform. More than half of those in the civil service are women, but just over a quarter of those in the senior civil service are women. Yes, there is a need for reform and for continued progress. If the hon. Gentleman has specific ideas about how we can advance that reform and ensure that there is positive recruitment, I look forward to listening with interest to them.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Hutton):
Yes. The duchy office has worked closely with all its tenants throughout the process of applying for
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single farm payments and will continue to do so. The duchy has a strong commitment to the rural economy and encourages enterprise on the part of all its tenants to maximise the sustainable future of their businesses.
Mr. Jack: I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new and important post, as far as Lancashire is concerned. His predecessor visited some of the duchy farms. What initiatives will he take to help farming take advantage of the new economic opportunities occasioned by the single farm payment, particularly in the context of safeguarding rural facilities such as rural post offices, rural shops and improved rural transport for the benefit of the people of Lancashire?
Mr. Hutton: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I intend to play an active role in supporting the work of the duchy office in the county palatinewhich I, too, have the honour to serve as a Member of Parliament. I look forward to visiting some of the duchy tenants in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Hutton):
The Government set out their programme of civil service reform in February 2004. These reforms will uphold the service's core values while delivering stronger leadership, more professional skills, including
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an improved ability to deliver programmes and projects, efficient use of public money and a more open and diverse organisation. A progress report is due to be published shortly.
Chris Bryant: Anybody who has ever had to deal with the civil service knows that the "Yes, Minister" caricature of a group of bureaucrats deliberately trying to thwart the will of Ministers is wholly unfair. None the less, efficiency and effectiveness must surely be the watchwords of the civil service. How can we make sure that we deal with the sclerotic tendency in the civil service without undermining the impartiality and independence of the service, which have stood the test of time?
Mr. Hutton: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He mentioned "Yes Minister"but we probably all need to watch "The Thick of It" now to get the updated version of the reality. My hon. Friend's points about impartiality and objectivity are important, and will form central themes of the reforms that the Cabinet Secretary, the Prime Minister and I are taking forward. If my hon. Friend has had a chance to look at the proposalsI am sure he has, as I know how thoroughly he does his homeworkhe will have seen that in the reforms, we put all that centre stage. The civil service as a whole can only benefit from greater transparency and greater movements in and out of it. That will benefit the good governance of the country and probity in public life and public administration. I look forward to working with my hon. Friend and all right hon. and hon. Members in taking forward those reforms. They will ultimately benefit the country, because our civil service is a national asset and we should continue to treat it as such.
The following Member took and subscribed the Oath, or made and subscribed the Affirmation required by Law:
Mr. Secretary Straw, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Margaret Beckett, Secretary John Reid, Secretary Alan Johnson, Mr. Secretary Clarke, Mr. Geoffrey Hoon, the Solicitor-General and Ms Harriet Harman, presented a Bill to make provision in connection with the Treaty signed at Rome on 29th October 2004 establishing a Constitution for Europe; and to require a referendum to be held about it: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 5].
Secretary Tessa Jowell, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Margaret Beckett, Mr. Secretary Darling, Ms Secretary Hewitt, Mr. Secretary Clarke, Mr. Secretary Hain, Secretary Ruth Kelly and Mr. Richard Caborn, presented a Bill to make provision about the National Lottery: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 6].
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [17 May],
We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.[Mr. Barron.]
'but regret the absence of measures in the Gracious Speech to reduce the burden of political targets and bureaucracy in the public services and of measures which would deliver high standards throughout the public services by promoting autonomy for professionals, creating genuine choice and removing over burdensome regulation so that new and existing providers can expand capacity and develop innovative approaches to service delivery; deplore the absence of measures adequately to support the NHS in delivering cleaner hospitals rather than just imposing sanctions on them, or to introduce a reformed legislative and organisational framework for public health; further regret the absence of measures which would take account of the proposals by the Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Health Bill in the last Parliament for substantial amendments to proposed mental health legislation; further deplore the absence of measures which would recognise the need to achieve the basic requirements in education of discipline, rigorous examinations, choice for parents and the freedom for staff to do what they do best; and further regret the absence of measures which would deliver the real improvements needed in the public services.'.
It is a great pleasure first to welcome the Secretary of State for Health to her new responsibilities. I hope that she will not find that her predecessor's evident desire to move from his responsibilities was more to do with his ambitions than with a desire to leave the problems behind him. The NHS has welcomed the Secretary of State's expression of her wish to listen. She said that she would listen for months. There was therefore a certain degree of dismay when her willingness to listen seemed to have lasted about a week before she determined on the policies that she would outline to the NHS. None the less, I hope that in the course of this debate we will give the Secretary of State many things that it would be to her advantage to listen to.
Might I also express a farewell to the right hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid), now the Secretary of State for Defence? Before the general election, at a Labour party press conference, he called for a debate with the Conservative party on health.
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Curiously, during the course of the subsequent general election campaign we had debates at the King's Fund, at the Patients Association, at the Royal College of Nursing congress and at the British Medical Association, but he did not come to join in any of those debates. That was left to the right hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) who is now the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and we wish him well in his new responsibilities. He served in the Department of Health for several years and I think that it is fair to say that he understood it, even if he did not admit to that.
We also welcome the Minister of State, Department of Health, the right hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Jane Kennedy), the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) and the other Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne) to their new responsibilities. We are delighted to see them in the Department of Health. The hon. Member for Don Valley appears to have brought her interests with her. She has already issued proposals for football and health, so I hope that public health will be the beneficiary of her enthusiasms.