HC Deb 15 November 1966 vol 736 cc222-3
Q5. Mr. Onslow

asked the Prime Minister what instructions he has given to the members of his administration to reduce the size of the Departments under their control.

The Prime Minister

Ministers in charge of Departments are well aware of the importance of manpower economy, but some increases in staffs are necessary to implement recent legislation.

Mr. Onslow

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that, when I asked the same Question a year ago, he said that the Chancellor was calling for maximum economy? Is he aware that, in the interval, the size of the Civil Service has risen by over 1,000 a month? Can he frankly or honestly call that "economy"?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Economy must be measured in relation to the job which has to be done. Whether hon. Members opposite approved of these matters or not, there have been substantial changes in the taxation system. [Interruption.] If that had not been the case we could not, with any decency, have asked for a prices and incomes standstill. It was because right hon. Gentlemen did not do it that they failed to get one. Also, of course, there have been significant changes in the social services and a very big increase in the staff of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Social Security—which I defend.

Sir C. Osborne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in London alone, 1,000,000 sq. ft. of extra office space has been taken for civil servants? Does he not think that this is an evil method of working?

The Prime Minister

We have tried where possible—as our predecessors did: like them, we have had some success—to decentralise offices from London to other parts of the country. However, as I said, when this work has to be done, one cannot provide—[Interruption.] Most of these have been the result of decisions taken by the House after very prolonged debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "S.E.T."] Certainly, S.E.T.—very much so—and also other tax changes, which have been fully debated in the House. The hon. Gentleman must not suggest that all paper work, whether by civil servants or in private enterprise, is necessarily bad

Mr. Coe

Would my right hon. Friend accept that this continual bleating by the Opposition about the size of the Civil Service represents a slur on the Civil Service, suggesting that it is not doing its job?

The Prime Minister

I did not so interpret it. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that the jobs which civil servants are asked to do are the result of decisions taken by the Government of the day and by Parliament. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite were as well served, of course, by the Civil Service as we have been. I took these Questions exactly as they were meant, implying that hon. Members did not agree with some of the policies which the House has carried through.