HC Deb 11 April 1967 vol 744 cc941-2
1. Mr. Judd

asked the Minister of Technology how far below strength are the numbers of accountants and technical costs officers employed by his Department; and what action is being taken to rectify the position.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Technology (Mr. John Stonehouse)

Since 1st April, 1964, the complements for these classes of staff have increased from 104 to 113 and from 261 to 352 respectively. The numbers now employed are below these revised complements by 28 and 76 respectively, and energetic efforts are being made to reduce this gap by recruitment, redeployment of staff, and by taking every opportunity to adjust methods and procedures so as to make the most effective use of the staff we have.

Mr. Judd

Would my hon. Friend agree that energy is not enough in this matter; that we need to know the precise causes and reasons for the shortage of staff if we are to have adequate control of the astronomically expensive contracts we are facing?

Mr. Stonehouse

I agree that we must do our utmost to improve the numbers of staff. I am glad to say that within the last three years the numbers in this division have been increased by 15 per cent.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Minister of State aware that at the time of the Lang Report one of the reasons for shortage of staff was the low rates of remuneration paid to technical costs officers, going down to as low as £750? Has any improvement been made in the rates of pay since the Lang Report?

Mr. Stonehouse

That is a consideration for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—among his other considerations.

Mr. Woodburn

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are not sufficient accountants in this country to look after the probity of firms if the firms themselves are not honest, and that the greatest solution to this problem is to have upright firms dealing with an upright Government and each treating the other fairly?

Mr. Stonehouse

It is correct to say that there is a general shortage of accountants in the United Kingdom.