HC Deb 27 January 1972 vol 829 cc1610-2
Q2. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the coordination between the Civil Service Department and the Treasury, the Department of Employment, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Health and Social Security in the reduction in numbers of civil servants in those Departments, in view of the figures announced in the Annual Report of the Civil Service Department; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The Civil Service Department approved the increases and decreases in staff numbers in individual Departments shown in its 1970–71 Report.

Mr. Dalyell

How is it that under the present Government the numbers of non-industrial civil servants have been rising at the rate of 100 per week?

The Prime Minister

For a variety of reasons, which I should have thought the hon. Gentleman would have deduced. He might also have asked me why the number of industrial civil servants had fallen by 6,850—rather more than the same rate. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well concerning non-industrials that there has been an extension of services to the community, particularly with the Department of Health and Social Security, which has led to this increase.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is it not a fact that the total number of civil servants rose by no less than 28,000 in the period between April, 1964, and April, 1970, which is more or less the period of the late and unlamented Labour Government, and that in the subsequent year the figure went down by 1,000?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. In their predictions, the numbers would have continued to rise substantially

Mr. Sheldon

Is not the reason why the number of industrial civil servants has fallen that they are not being employed by the Government but by other bodies? Is it not the real issue that in the Conservative Party's election manifesto the Prime Minister promised that there would be a reduction in the number of civil servants? For the first time ever, it is now in excess of half a million. Does the Prime Minister intend to redeem that pledge?

The Prime Minister

If they are not employed by the Government, obviously they are not civil servants. I should have thought that that was quite plain. What the Government are doing is to ensure that where certain services are required directly by the comunity—in the main, health and social security services—they are provided.

Sir D. Renton

Does it remain the intention of the Government ultimately to arrive at an overall reduction in the number of non-industrial civil servants?

The Prime Minister

Where non-industrial civil servants are concerned it is important to distinguish between those employed at headquarters and those em ployed on direct services to the community—[Interruption]. If hon. Members opposite do not want people to look after the aged and infirm, they should say so. But we have always recognised that the increasing population and the increasing number of old people must be looked after.

Mr. Molloy

Does not the Prime Minister agree that the views of the National Staff Side and of the staff associations and trade unions in the Civil Service are important and that proper cognisance should be taken of them? If the right hon. Gentleman agrees, may we have an assurance that, in future discussions on possible curtailment of staff, all the staff associations will have their proper rights and no impediment will be placed in the way of their negotiation and arbitration methods?

The Prime Minister

I think that I can give an unqualified assurance to the hon. Gentleman, not only for the future but also for the whole time that this Government have been in office. If the hon. Gentleman knows of instances about which he wishes to complain, he should let me have details of them. I have met the staff associations and we have discussed not only this problem but the question of redeployment and movement about the country. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department is in constant touch with them, as are my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal and the Head of the Civil Service. I know of no complaints from the Civil Service associations. They have been taken into consultation on every aspect of their work.