HC Deb 16 March 1965 vol 708 cc1046-9
17. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Postmaster-General when he will be in a position to commence discussions with the Corporation of Glasgow regarding the choice of a site for the new headquarters for the Post Office Savings Bank.

74 and 75. Mr. Carmichael

asked the Postmaster-General (1) when he intends to commence discussions with the City Corporation on the siting of the Post Office Savings Bank in Glasgow;

(2) when he intends to announce the site of the Post Office Savings Bank in Glasgow.

76. Mr. Buchan

asked the Postmaster-General what discussions he has now had with the local authority on the siting of the Post Office Savings Bank in Glasgow.

77. Dr. Miller

asked the Postmaster-General if he will now state the proposed location in Glasgow for the new headquarters of the Post Office Savings Bank.

Mr. Benn

With permission I will answer Question No. 17 together with Questions Nos. 74, 75, 76 and 77.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. Would my right hon. Friend consider taking Question No. 43 with these as well?

Mr. Speaker

There is no point of order for me. The Minister can decide for himself. I cannot do it for him.

Mr. Benn

My officials have begun talks with the Glasgow Corporation, and also with staff representatives, regarding the choice of an office site. There are several possibilities and they need careful consideration. I hope that a decision can be reached within a couple of months.

Mr. Taylor

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept my congratulations as a Glasgow Member on the fact that from all accounts he has conducted these delicate and difficult negotiations with a skill and tact which we on this side of the House have not come to expect from members of Her Majesty's present Government? I appreciate that he cannot say anything more at this stage, but in general will he say whether he is satisfied with the progress made and with the co-operation he has received from other parties?

Mr. Benn

There are three points. One is the relations with the Glasgow officials, who have been extremely helpful. Staff representatives have been to see 10 possible sites and today there is a meeting between staff representatives and my officials on that subject. On the other side are the enormous human problems involved in a move of this kind. I have tried as best I can to make this my own personal concern in order to avert the possibility of any compulsory transfers. It will inevitably take some time, but I think that we can say that we are making some progress.

Mr. Carmichael

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Glasgow Members expected that there would be a good relationship between the Government and the local authority on this matter? Is he aware that there is some disquiet about the suggestion that the transfer may be spread over as much as 10 years? While I appreciate what he has said about the personal issue, may I ask whether 10 years is in any way likely to be the sort of time required for the transfer?

Mr. Benn

I appreciate my hon. Friend's interest. However, it is not only the human problem. There are technical problems involved in moving the Savings Bank on to computers at the same time as it makes a physical move to Glasgow. We are hoping that with temporary buildings we shall be able next year to establish a small nucleus in Glasgow and within four or five years after that, when a site for a major building has been acquired, to operate on a bigger scale. It may be that 10 years for the whole change will be necessary.

Dr. Miller

Now that proceedings have safely reached their present stage, would my right hon. Friend agree that one of the sites which would prove admirable for the project in Glasgow would be a development area in the central part of the city? Does he agree that the whole project should now proceed with the minimum of delay?

Mr. Benn

I understand my hon. Friend's concern, but it would be wise to leave the staff representatives to negotiate this with our officials and to consider the alternatives offered by the Glasgow Corporation.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the policy of dispersing Government jobs from London commenced, more than 30,000 transfers to various parts of England have taken place? Is he aware that in Scotland we hope that the smoothness which distinguished those will distinguish the Post Office transfer?

Mr. Benn

I appreciate what my hon, Friend said. One of the delightful things about this exercise has been the very warm welcome which, we know, awaits the Savings Bank in Glasgow.

Mr. Ramsden

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to keep in close touch with his colleagues, especially the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, about this situation so that if and when the Bank's work is reorganised from Harrogate to Glasgow, possible alternative Government work will be available in Harrogate?

Mr. Benn

We recognise the special needs of those working in Harrogate and we are taking them into account.