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Given the difficulties in bringing forward primary legislation, the Cabinet Office has been considering alternative legislative vehicles for making the changes. Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 presents an opportunity to take forward change to the current legislation which, while not as wide-ranging as those envisaged under primary legislation, would allow departments and agencies to open up a much larger percentage of their posts to non-UK EEA nationals. This will greatly benefit the UK Civil Service, which will be able to employ the best people based on selection on merit through fair and open competition from a much wider pool of talent.
The draft order, which has been drawn up after an extensive consultation exercise within government and with the support of the Council of Civil Service Unions, deals, therefore, with a change in the status of certain posts in civil employment under the Crown, including the Home Civil Service and the Northern Ireland Civil Service, to make them more accessible to nationals of the European economic area who are already eligible to apply for the majority of posts. I stress that it does not deal with immigration or work permits and does not affect the requirements for those non-UK nationals specified in the draft order to obtain leave to remain and to work in the UK before they can take up employment.
The draft order will apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. Article 2 amends the Aliens Employment Act 1955 to provide decision-makers with a more detailed test to be applied when determining which posts should not be open to EEA nationals. As the Aliens Employment Act 1955 does not apply to Northern Ireland, an amendment to the European Communities (Employment in the Civil Service) Order 1991, at Article 3 of the draft order, achieves the same effect for Northern Ireland.
With regard to Northern Ireland, at a practical level, with a considerable pool of relatively local non-UK talent on its doorstep, it is organisationally undesirable for the Northern Ireland Civil Service routinely to have to turn away suitably qualified people on grounds of nationality. This is a frequent occurrence and, from an efficiency perspective alone, the Northern Ireland Civil Service would be very keen to see a change which allowed it greater flexibility in recruitment.
I wish to comment on security, which is, of course, important to the Civil Service. The draft order will have no effect on security requirements. All persons taking up employment or holding office in a civil capacity under the Crown will continue to be subject to the usual security checks governing such appointments. I should also make the point that nationality requirements are not the same as security requirements, which can be imposed on any potential recruit, irrespective of nationality. There is an occasional misunderstanding that security check clearance indicates that the post must automatically be in the public service category. That is not the case. Security clearance may be required for public service or non-public service posts. The main purpose of vetting is to provide an assurance of the reliability and trustworthiness of individuals, factors that are not necessarily connected with their nationality.
I must emphasise that it will remain a matter of policy to restrict access to certain posts to UK nationals where that is strictly necessary, and the draft order provides revised criteria for doing so. In order to allow departments and agencies to reserve posts in future, the draft order specifies a test that must be met. That test is believed to have a number of advantages over the current guidance, which has been in place for so long and has become a source of so much confusion and uncertainty. First, it sets out clearly the categories of posts that may be reserved. Secondly, a tighter and clearer definition in the order
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It has also been necessary to include certain broader categories in the definition of reserved posts. They are set out in the draft order as posts whose functions are concerned with access to intelligence information received directly or indirectly from the security and intelligence services or access to other information that, if disclosed without authority or otherwise misused, might damage the interests of national security or might be prejudicial to the interests of the United Kingdom or the safety of its citizens. A final category includes posts whose functions are concerned with border control or decisions about immigration.
The draft order is not being made in response to any new European legislation or directive. Instead, its purpose is to increase the efficient running of the Civil Service by making the criteria for reserving posts more specific and more relevant to the business of departments and agencies in response to the evolving Civil Service agenda.
I apologise for the length of this introduction, but it will be recognised how significant this order is. We looked at primary legislation as a possibility for dealing with this issue, but we could not expedite that in reasonable time. Accordingly, this order is before your Lordships for consideration today, and I beg to move.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining the order so thoroughlyand at such speed. We support in principle what is being done here. One of the main provisos is that we need to be satisfied that there are adequate safeguards of the important national interests of security, trade and diplomacy. I will return to those in a moment.
I note from Mondays debate in another place that the Minister there failed to answer any of the questions posed by my honourable friend the Member for North-West Norfolk, I think because the latter had said at the outset that he was unlikely to be able to stay for very long because he needed to be elsewhere, and the Ministers civil servants had perhaps assumed that they could therefore subsequently produce answers for him in writing. To refresh the Ministers memory, the questions concerned the following issues: first, the number of Irish nationals prevented, as the Minister said, from joining our Civil Service since 1996, about which the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, asked a related question recently in your Lordships House; secondly the number of Turkish nationals affected by the Ankara agreement; thirdly, the extent of the problem referred to in the
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I am sure noble Lords would agree that we have to be sure that our nationals are representing us on key issues. Will the Minister outline the safeguards that will be put in place to ensure that foreign nationals, employed in the Civil Service quite properly within the spirit and letter of the order, will not be able to get into a position such that they come into possession of information which, if disclosed without authority or otherwise misused, might damage the interests of national security? Expanding upon the question of my honourable friend in the other place, to which I referred earlier, will the Minister list the particular roles that will remain reserved, or, alternatively, explain who will determine whether a post is reserved or not?
The Explanatory Notes say that consultation on the order within the Civil Service showed that there were no significant objections. That rather implies that there were objections, but that the drafter considered them to have been insignificant. What objections to the order were made during the consultation within the Civil Service?
How many foreign nationals, if any, will be employed by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate? If there are to be any, what will their roles be? Can the Minister confirm that no foreign national working in the Civil Service has, within the past 10 years, been disciplined for allegedly acting in a way that would risk harming the interests of the UK or its citizens? Finally, and importantly, what reciprocal arrangements do the Government propose should be made to ensure that UK citizens are similarly enabled to work in the civil services of other EU states?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it is the last of those questions that I wish to follow. I start by welcoming the order. I appreciate that there have been some sensitivities in Northern Ireland on this issue, but if we are moving Northern Ireland back to normality in every single sense of the term, the normal arrangements whereby nationals of other EU states, including the Republic of Ireland, have access to the British Civil Service under these terms have to be recognised.
I congratulate Her Majestys Government and their predecessor on the openness with which we have treated the nationals of other EU states, following on from the employment of many Commonwealth nationals within the British Civil Service. Two years ago I was rather shaken, when I had been invited to give a seminar with some others to a group within Her Majestys Treasury on social policies in European Union member states, to find that I was addressing a group that included a British official of German nationality and one of Swedish nationality. I am told
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I want to encourage Her Majestys Government to ensure that this order is applied properly by other member states. I declare a particular interest: British professors are not officials, but German professors are, with all the dignity that that brings to themI assure the Minister that they carry it very strongly; far too strongly, in my opinionwhich means it is extremely difficult for a non-German national to become a full professor in a German university. That is absurd. I wish the Government would be active in exposing the many barriers that cover a much larger area in other countries than in Britain, because those countries are rather more statist, as well as in poking fun at other Governments on this and pointing with pride to our record. This is one of the many areas in which in practice we are much more European than some of our continental neighbours, although they still seem to think that they are somehow more European than us.
I want to make it very clear that I do not have a prejudice against the other folk who live on the south of the island where I reside, nor am I anti-European to the extent that I would distrust individual European neighbours. In another place, I represented a constituency with a large population of PortugueseEast Timorese, in factLithuanians and Poles. Both individually and through my party, we have managed, I think quite successfully, to integrate these people into our community. I say that in case, looking at an Ulster Unionist, the Minister may be inclined to think, That guy is somewhat xenophobic; I am not. I know that the Minister would never suggest such a thing.
The order would have a serious impact on Northern Ireland, which is emerging from the fog of distrust, from years of violence and years of looking across a land frontierthis leaves Northern Ireland unique in the United Kingdomat those near neighbours whose first loyalty must be to the Irish Republic. I am even more concerned in so far as my noble friend Lord Trimble asked the Minister about this very issue on 30 January. He was assured by the Minister that Permanent Secretary posts, for one, would be reserved posts, so there would be no question of parachuting in people from the Irish Republic. He recognised the implications for Northern Ireland; he knew what was at stake for the civil servant; but he recognised that,
However, the draft Order in Council sets out categories of posts which are capable of being reserved. It would therefore be a matter for the Secretary of State to take the decision as to whether a particular post should be reserved.
I am sure that the Minister knows the letter to which I refer. I will not read more of it, but he will understand my concern at this apparent indecision. Nobody has initially been clear whether there is a protection that we would require and hope for in Northern Ireland.
When we last had the Assembly, somewhere around 1999 or 2000I am not sure of the exact dateon the recommendation of the then head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Permanent Secretaries were reclassified, as were other senior posts, and defined as reserved posts. It was very clear. The head of the Civil Service was not an old dyed-in-the-wool unionist like Ken Maginnis. He was a member of what we used politely to refer to as the minority community. He was a very fine servant of Northern Ireland, and he was from the Catholic communityfrom those whom one might expect automatically to have some sympathy with Irish republicanism. He realised the implications of complicating life in a place emerging from violence and distrust by, as my noble friend Lord Trimble described it, parachuting in senior civil servants from the Irish Republic.
It is all very well to say that we will leave it in the hands of the Secretary of State. I would prefer not to personalise this, but I am afraid that to some extent I must. On what basis would the Secretary of Stateor any successor Secretaries of State, if it came to thatmake the judgment? I have just seen my Secretary of State apologise for the slave trade in Northern Ireland. Perhaps somebody should have told him before he apologised on my behalf that Northern Ireland was never engaged in that trade. In fact, in 1786 or thereabouts, before there was repealing legislation, the businessmen of Belfast came togethersomebody had raised the prospect of a profit to be madeand were united across political and religious divides, and stipulated that the slave trade would not be brought to Belfast. So who makes a judgment that the Secretary of State apologises on my behalf? Who makes a judgment that, not content with that, he should go where I hope to go on Saturday, to Croke Park, to the English-Irish rugby match? As I look around the Chamber I know that I will be shouting for a different side from the noble Lords here present. Why should I go under the cloud that my Secretary of State is going to make a judgment that he will apologise for an event that happened in a war situation 87 years ago?
Nobody has apologised to me for the pupils I taught in primary school who were murdered. Nobody has apologised to me for my teacher colleagues who were murdered. Nobody has apologised to me for my rugby mates who were murdered or for my neighbours. I do not want to personalise this any further, but, with that sort of presumption, I have to ask, What is the
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I cannot hope to have confidence, nor will any of my colleagues, nor will people from the other tradition in Northern Ireland, that we will be properly represented when it comes to making a decision on this issue. I hope that the Minister will give me some greater reassurance than that the decision will be left in the hands of a single individual.
National interest is not just about my police, my security or criminality and those things that we have had to endure in Northern Ireland for a number of years. National security is about jobs, inward investment and about how we attract it. That does not fall within the scope of security or intelligence, although I suppose how we attract the packages that we put together is a form of intelligence. We all know that our current Secretary of State has been ensuring that the integrity of Northern Ireland investment packages is compromised by the way in which way we have to act. Let me put it clearly: we cannot send an economic trade delegation abroad on its own; it has to be accompanied by someone from the Irish Republic. That would be fine if we were fighting on a level playing field, but we are not doing that. We have a much higher corporation tax than in the Irish Republic. There are other aspects of economic life that are totally different, hence it is impossible to have duplication of interestit is conflict of interests, if one is to be honest.
I do not want to detain the House any longer. I hope that the Minister will reassure me that the interests of the people of Northern Ireland will not be sold short because we are bound to have people parachuted in who will, however honourable, still have that conflict of interest that will affect our community.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in the debate, which ranged a little more widely than I had anticipated, but was none the worse for that. I hope that I can respond to the considerable number of questions that have been posed to me while indicating that this is an important issue subject to proper scrutiny.
I want to emphasise to the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, that my opening remarks were protracted in order to do my best to reassure the House on certain matters, particularly on consultation. I hear what he says, and there is always a judgment about whether reservations that have been expressed may be significant or insignificant. However, I assure the noble Lord that, when consultation is carried out with the Civil Service unions on a matter of such importance to themthe criteria for postsand when we say that there was broad assent to the concept of the order and what it implies, I say that in the full knowledge that, if there had been serious reservations, we would not have dreamt of presenting the legislation in those terms. I want to reassure him that the consultation was full and effective. Inevitably, questions were raised on the margins, as one would expect, but there is broad support for what the measure does.
The noble Lord mentioned the fact that inadequate answers were given at the other end. He will recognise that it is a convention in both Houses that if the questionerMember of Parliament or noble Lorddoes not stay until the end of the debate, it is not likely that he will be vouchsafed the courtesy of much of an answer. That is an important point. He indicated that that was part of the problem.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that might have thrown my honourable friend in the other place in those terms and he was able to concentrate a little less. However, I am able to concentrate more, and, as the noble Lord reiterated the questions, I will certainly do my best to respond to them.
We think that about 5 per cent of the posts in the Civil Service will be reserved. That indicates to the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, that the issue is being tackled. I will come to his position with regard to the Permanent Secretaries in just a moment.
I have answers to the specific questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley. I cannot say how many Irish nationals were prevented from joining the Northern Ireland Civil Service since 1996. I would not expect the Civil Service to collect negative information, as it were. I can look at the issue further and produce the best answer possible, but I do not have a figure because it is, in a sense, a negative question.
The noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, asked about one particular group of nationals who are very importantTurkish nationals, who are not members of the European Community. The order applies to Turkish nationals, who are subject to additional conditions found in Article 6 of Decision 1/80 of the Association Council of the European Commission. Basically, a Turkish national must initially have a work permit. After a year, he or she can apply for renewal of the work permit. After three years, he or she can take up a job with another employer. Free access is granted only after four years of legal employment. Apart from two employees attached to the United Kingdom embassy and consulates in Turkey, to the best of our knowledge, no Turkish nationals are currently employed in the Civil Service.
The noble Lord asked a more general question about what the British got out of this and whether there was reciprocity. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, addressed himself to that as well. The answer is Not directly, in the sense that some states are more extensive in their provision for foreign nationals than we will be under the order. Some are considerably less so, particularly those who joined the European Community more recently. It would outweigh the patience of the House if I went through the full list of categories for every member of the European Community. I emphasise that reciprocity is the principle on which we work and what we seek to
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