Ford stresses records will not be passed over

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 November, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 November, 1993, 12:00am

CHIEF Secretary Sir David Ford yesterday assured civil servants that records of individuals would not be passed over to the Chinese side and access to those records would be extremely limited.

Speaking at a farewell press briefing before he retires from the top post this weekend, Sir David noted that while the Government needed to discuss senior appointments with China to ensure continuity for principal officials, confidential reports on thoseofficers would not be handed over.

''I can assure you that there is no part of our thinking that records of individuals will be passed to the Chinese side. Access to those records will be extremely limited,'' Sir David said.

Confidence and morale in the civil service would be seriously undermined if they assumed that the records were going to be handed over, he added.

''Those discussions [with China on senior appointments] do not involve handing over the confidential reports of those people.'' During discussions with China, the officers' weaknesses and strengths would be discussed and this was ''exactly the situation'' that applied to senior appointments nowadays, he said.

The British Foreign Secretary was involved in discussions on senior appointments now, he said.

There was nothing startling in going down this path, Sir David said.

''I don't believe that civil servants as such should in any way worry about the prospects.

''Indeed, most of them welcome the idea that they must know where they stand. I don't think there is any question at all that there's going to be a wholesale purging, if you like, of senior civil servants,'' he said.

Sir David said the Government had always envisaged that as 1997 came and the administration started to appoint principal officials who were going to straddle 1997, it needed to ensure China had confidence in the appointees and therefore discussions with the Chinese side would be needed.

It was also true for those officers concerned that they needed to have confidence themselves that they could serve beyond the change-over.