HC Deb 20 February 1962 vol 654 cc206-8

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why Her Majesty's Government have decided to put the cleaning of Government offices out to private contract.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)

With permission, may I reply to Question No. 94.

In certain buildings, particularly in London, it has been found that it is much cheaper and no less efficient to employ contract cleaners rather than a direct cleaning force.

Mrs. Braddock

In view of the fact that in one office in London at least it has been decided that it was not cheaper and it was not nearly as efficient to let the cleaning out to contract, is not this a matter which should receive a lot more consideration? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is great concern in offices about security and about the cleanliness of the offices, and ought not the whole subject to be debated in the House before there is a complete change of policy by the Treasury?

Sir E. Boyle

I should, of course, be very glad to consider any representations which the hon. Lady cares to send me on the matter. I understand that the saving is likely to be about 25 per cent. and, in general, the service from the contract cleaners is as good as it is from the directly employed staff.

Mrs. Slater

Does the hon. Gentleman know that the Civil Service union which represents these women is very concerned and, in a document which we have received, puts the case that not only does it cost the Government more because the contractors very often pay a few more coppers to the women, but that, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman has said about the cleaning, in general, being satisfactory, at least one Department has gone back to the direct employment of women cleaners because it was not satisfied with the new arrangement?

Sir E. Boyle

I have definitely heard of cases where the service has improved since the contractors took over. All I can say is that, with the present level of expenditure, I think that it is right that the public should get good value for money in all aspects of the service.

Mr. Burden

Can my hon. Friend give, in round figures, what the saving is likely to be?

Sir E. Boyle

No, I cannot give the total. What I can say, as I said in answer to the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) is that the saving is likely to be about 25 per cent. In one particular case I have heard of, there is likely to be a saving of about 44 per cent.

Mr. Callaghan

If the Financial Secretary can tell us the percentages, does not he know the figures?

Sir E. Boyle

I cannot give the exact net figure without notice. Indeed, I think that it would be unwise to make too rapid a calculation. I have given the percentage figure, and I repeat that I think it important that the taxpayer should have good value for money right along the line.

Mrs. Braddock

This is a matter which cannot be dealt with by question and answer. In view of its great importance and the effect which the decision is having in Government offices in the London area and outside, will the Minister undertake to prepare a report for the House so that we may have a very full debate and obtain all the necessary information.

Sir E. Boyle

I should not like to pledge myself about a report, although I agree that it is not a suitable subject for question and answer. If the hon. Lady wishes to raise the matter in debate, there are, I think, opportunities open to her.