HC Deb 09 December 1971 vol 827 cc1497-8
Q1. Mr. Bagier

asked the Prime Minister whether he can now say when he expects to receive the report from the Government Departments Dispersal Committee; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I expect next year to receive recommendations indicating how much of the headquarters work in London should remain there and where the rest might best be relocated. It will be our policy to disperse from central London such work as can go without causing unacceptable damage to the efficiency of Government business.

Mr. Bagier

May I first congratulate the Prime Minister on reaching his Questions? In the light of this report, does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that since his Government came to office the net result for the North-Eastern Region, for whatever reasons, has been the departure of the Land Commission's headquarters, the decision to place the V.A.T. headquarters at Southend and an announcement last week of the cancellation of the Inland Revenue's computer centre, which was to be placed at Washington in my constituency and would have provided 2,000 jobs? Does not the Prime Minister appreciate that his image is one of a Government who do not intend to move Government jobs out of London? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to adopt a stronger line with his Ministers by telling them to stand up to their civil servants and to say, if it is necessary for a Government office to go out of London, that it must go?

The Prime Minister

It was a Conservative Government in 1963 which inaugurated the dispersal policy. It was a policy of dispersing executive work, especially those parts of the Government organisation which could be hived off separately to other parts of the country. The review now being undertaken is very much more complex since it deals with those parts of the Government machine concerned with policy and endeavours to keep only the bare minimum of headquarters staff in London whilst dispersing the rest.

The cases mentioned by the hon. Gentleman have been dealt with many times. They do not alter the fact that, as a result of the first dispersal policy, there are between 20,000 and 35,000 civil servants still in process of being moved to other parts of the country. The total figure will depend on the final decision about the review of P.A.Y.E. and the Inland Revenue organisation.