HC Deb 20 December 1966 vol 738 cc1183-5
Q4. Mr. Onslow

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements he makes to keep himself informed of increases in Departmental staffs.

The Prime Minister

Forecasts of changes in staff to be employed during the next Financial Year are to be found in each Department's Estimate. Totals of actual numbers in post are collected and published quarterly in the Monthly Digest of Statistics and in greater detail in the Annual Abstract of Statistics. I am fully aware of major developments of policy in all Departments, and staffing changes are the result of policy decisions.

Mr. Onslow

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, since his Government took office, the number of non-industrial civil servants has increased by an average of a thousand a month but that standards of entry have had to be lowered? How does he equate that with the high standard of managerial economy which he is always preaching to private industry?

The Prime Minister

As I have said repeatedly in answer to similar Questions, this must depend on policy. The Land Commission will require 2,000 staff. The House has voted on that. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who regard these as non-productive civil servants never allow for the very much higher numbers of non-productive people in private industry who are engaged in land speculation. The test of being productive or non-productive must be applied to both cases if hon. Gentlemen want to be logical. In addition, we shall require 2,000 more for social security schemes, approved by this House without a Division, on earnings-related benefits, and 3,000 on non-contributory benefits and the "national assistance" live register. Hon. Gentlemen cannot vote for these things and object to having the staff for them.

Mr. John Hall

Would not the Prime Minister agree that a large part of the non-productive staffs to which he referred in private industry is necessitated by the need to act as unpaid tax collectors for the Government, and to deal with the constant complicated additional tax legislation which is being passed?

The Prime Minister

There were always a considerable number of people employed in private industry dealing with tax questions, and I would feel that the tax avoidance profession, which was very extensively employed even against Conservative Chancellors, is probably finding a little less scope for its activities today, but it is certainly the case that it has been necessary to have more people employed on taxes—against taxes which were voted by this House.

Mr. Rippon

Does the Prime Minister really believe that only 2,000 people will be needed to make the Land Commission Act work? Will he give a pledge that it will be no more than 2,000, and has he any idea of the thousands of people who will be tied down trying to make sense of it?

The Prime Minister

The best forecast available is that it will require about 2,000 staff, and this is what I said earlier. So far as land work is concerned, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has his own sources of information, but he will find that there were larger numbers involved in speculation in land against the public interest, at very high cost both to the ratepayer and the taxpayer.

Mr. Grimond

Do the Prime Minister's answers mean that, in spite of the Government's avowed policy to get personnel out of the service industries, he is satisfied to see the public service going up at a rate of 1,000 a month?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, and the greatest economy will be taken to see that the Civil Service does not expand more than is necessary, but when reference is made to the service industries, I must say what I have been trying to point out for the last few minutes, and now to the right hon. Gentleman, that there were larger numbers employed in spiv occupations who will have far less scope and can therefore go into productive work as a result of legislation passed by this House.