HC Deb 17 November 1964 vol 702 cc175-7
4. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Postmaster-General if a suitable site has been obtained for the head office of the Post Office Savings Bank in Glasgow; and when he expects the building to be completed.

9. Sir M. Galpern

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will give an assurance that it is still the policy of Her Majesty's Government that the Post Office Savings Bank should be moved to Glasgow; and what steps have been taken to implement the decision of the previous administration.

24. Mr. Rankin

asked the Postmaster-General if he will make a statement on the progress being made in transferring the Post Office Savings Bank to Glasgow.

Mr. Benn

I told the House on 10th November that the decision to move the Savings Bank to Glasgow still stands. For a move of this magnitude staff co-operation is indispensable. The first task, which I am tackling personally, is therefore to win the good will of the staff and avert compulsion. I hope that before long it will be possible to make plans for the operation, including choice of an office site, in consultation with them and the City of Glasgow. We are keen to make progress.

Mr. Taylor

While thanking the Minister for his reply, may I ask him whether he will not agree that while we accept that the detailed administration for the transfer, particularly of staff, will take a considerable time, it is difficult to see why a decision on the site for the office in Glasgow cannot be arrived at, particularly when the corporation promised to make a list of sites available? Further, will the Minister not agree that the people of Glasgow are rather concerned that if a decision is not arrived at this year it is somewhat unlikely that the 6, 000 jobs envisaged will be available before 1970?

Mr. Benn

I appreciate the point which the hon. Gentleman is making and I understand the desire of the people of Glasgow to get this move through as quickly as possible. On the other hand, the Post Office has a very proud record of dispersal with the co-operation of the staff. I think that the hon. Gentleman is as well aware as I am of the difficulties which have arisen in this case. I am very keen to work with and through the staff about the choosing of the site, which is a matter of concern to them, and I am grateful to Glasgow for having made the offer of the many sites. We shall make progress as soon as possible.

Sir M. Galpern

Will the Minister consider convening an early conference of representatives of Glasgow Corporation and neighbouring local authorities interested in this project for the purpose of considering practical measures to facilitate the smooth and acceptable transfer of the civil servants from London?

Mr. Benn

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that suggestion. The first job is for me to meet the staff, and the wives of the staff involved, personally. I have made an offer to meet them in the first instance.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he will have the full support of Glasgow in seeking to secure the maximum of good will in this transfer? Does he recollect that last week he said that now a good deal of computerisation—I think that that was the word he used—was involved in the transfer? Would he just make it perfectly clear in what way computerisation should delay the transfer?

Mr. Benn

In respect of my hon. Friend's first question, I am very grateful for his assurance that the people of Glasgow will make it easy, because it is very important to have good will on both sides. As for the effect of computerisation, the position really is this, that there are 44 million accounts in the Post Office Savings Bank and these are being transferred to computer operation, and to transfer a base, and to alter the basis on which the accounts are kept up to date at the same time, is, to say the least, a difficult operation. That was the only reason I mentioned it.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Nevertheless, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the vast majority of the Post Office Savings Bank workers very much resent being asked to move out of London as well as out of England, and will he give an assurance that where these people are to suffer a very great upheaval, and offer good and adequate reasons for their staving, they should be given every consideration and offered comparable employment?

Mr. Benn

It is exactly for that reason that I have offered to meet the staff, and the wives and families if necessary, in order to ease the difficulty. If I may say so, that supplementary question was singularly unhelpful.

Hon. Members