HC Deb 02 December 1968 vol 774 cc1009-11
10. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what administrative savings have now been made in staff due to the amalgamation of Departments that has taken place in the social services; and how the staff of his combined Department compares with the position in December, 1964.

51. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services to what extent he expects to be able to make staff reductions in the two former Ministries of Health and Pensions and National Insurance as a result of their amalgamation in his new Department.

Mr. Crossman

The main purpose of the mergers of social service Departments that have taken place during the past two years was not so much to save staff as to secure better co-ordination of social security policy. Since 1964 the services have been expanded and improved by measures including earnings-related supplements to flat rate contributory benefits and the new scheme of supplementary benefits which has attracted nearly half a million additional beneficiaries.

Mr. Ridsdale

Is the Secretary of State aware that what many people on retirement pension want is real help and not paper staff work?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, I think I am aware of this, and that is why the hon. Member will, I hope, study the end of my Answer, when he will see that I said the new scheme of supplementary benefits has attracted 500,000 additional beneficiaries. That is not paper—that is half a million people who were entitled to supplementary benefit under the Tories and did not get it, but got it, for the first time, under our entitlement scheme.

Mr. Fisher

Was not one of the objectives of amalgamating the two Departments together that there should also be an effect in reducing the numbers of civil servants, whose number has steadily risen ever since this Government took office? Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that that should be one of the objects? If so, when, and to what exent, does he expect to achieve it?

Mr. Crossman

Of course it is one of the objects, but I have pointed out that I am not expecting a net saving on the merging of the two Departments for the reason I have given; because in social security there has been an enormous expansion of the work, and the very proper public demand that we should see there is no abuse of the work. These things put together mean that in social security we might, if anything, have an increase of staff.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Nevertheless. may I ask the Secretary of State if he would look at the figures again to see if he can stop the very rapid increase over the last 15 months or so of some 12 per cent. at the combined Ministries and help the rationalisation of their forecast and stop the increase in numbers?

Mr. Crossman

I have looked at these figures very carefully. I do not think it is true of the combined Ministry. I would emphasise that in social security there has been an increase of staff because of the three major changes—earnings-related supplement to flat-rate unemployment and sickness benefit, on the one side; and the transformation of our national assistance into supplementary benefit on the other; and thirdly the investigation required. All this could not possibly have been done without an increase in staff.