HC Deb 17 March 1971 vol 813 cc1412-4
35. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what change in the number of civil servants has occurred in the period between 19th June, 1970, and 19th February, 1971, or latest convenient date; and what plans are in hand for reduction.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department (Mr. David Howell)

Non-industrial staffs have increased between 1st July, 1970, and 1st February, 1971, by about 4,400. In the same period industrial staff numbers have decreased by about 3,100.

As far as reduction are concerned, we inherited a steep rise in manpower demand during 1970–71. We are cutting this back systematically through shedding Government functions. As a first result, the number of non-industrial staff in post at 1st April this year will be under 500,000, compared with the ceiling figure of over 505,000 set by our predecessors for that date.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my hon. Friend cause to be mounted on the wall in front of his desk in his Ministry a memorial to the effect that he was elected in Guildford, as I was elected in South Worcestershire, on a promise greatly to reduce the bumbling and bloated bureaucracy? Will he not take short, faltering steps towards me to embrace me and my policies?

Mr. Howell

I thank my hon. Friend for his suggestion for the decor of my office. On the serious and important point which he raises, we take this matter very seriously, indeed. We intend to work systematically through the functions of government, cutting out the burdens and thereby the staff needed to fulfil those responsibilities. In that way, unlike our predecessors, we shall achieve our objectives.

Mr. Loughlin

Is not the reduction in the industrial Civil Service consequent upon the efficiency studies which the Labour Government undertook in the Departments? Is it not true that no redundancy was involved and that the reduction came from wastage resulting from our reorganisation? Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that one difficulty is that a reduction in the number of civil servants in certain aspects will simply mean a transference of the work to outside contractors?

Mr. Howell

I accept the difficulties which the hon. Member points to. Nearly everything that happened in the way of decreases and increases before Christmas was the result of the programmes and undertakings inherited from our predecessors. As from Christmas, our own policies and programmes will begin to bite, and we shall see a flattening-out in the growth of the Civil Service.

41. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister for the Civil Service to what extent the extra 700 permanent staff at an annual additional cost of £1 million per annum for the social service departments will be engaged on dealing with matters connected with the increased number of unemployed; and how these increases will affect Her Majesty's Government's policy of reducing the number of civil servants and the cost of the Civil Service.

Mr. David Howell

The first part of the Question is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. As to the second part, our policy on Civil Service manpower use is not affected. Total staff numbers reflect work demands placed on Departments, and this means changes, both increases and decreases, from time to time in departmental strengths to meet variations in workloads.

Mr. Lewis

Is this not a bit crazy? We have a system whereby the Government guarantee to cut the numbers in the Civil Service, and we find that they deliberately increase them; the Government also promise that they will cut unemployment, and yet they take action deliberately designed to increase it. Now the Minister will not take action to see that the people who are entitled to get work should get work at reasonable wages.

Mr. Howell

The Government's approach to this matter is completely systematic. The aim is to cut the burdens and responsibilities and thereby cut the staff needs. To rush round trying to cut staff without cutting work would lead to bad management, incompetence, and disruption of the kind with which we were more familiar in the recent past than under the present Government.

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