HC Deb 19 July 1972 vol 841 cc617-8
40. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister for the Civil Service why the General Administrative Expenses for 1972–73 in his ministerial Department are expected to increase to £1,054,866 from £756,083 in 1971–72.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

Comparing published estimates, the increase for General Administrative Expenses of £299,000 over 1971–72 is due partly to higher prices covering such items as postage, telephones, travelling, cleaning and canteens and the remainder to an increase in the level of activity and the wider responsibilities of my Department.

Mr. Lewis

What an astounding reply! First of all the Prime Minister and the Government promised to cut prices at a stroke and now we are having the excuse that the reason why this has gone up by 25 per cent, is that prices have gone up. Are we not getting two broken promises? Is it not time that the Government at least implemented one of their promises, either to cut prices at a stroke or to cut the cost of the Civil Service, one or the other?

Mr. Baker

The cost of the Civil Service is not involved here. The figures the hon. Gentleman is comparing are very wide-spaced. The estimates for 1971–72 were prepared in October, 1970. I should also point out that these figures include, as a result of the way in which we present accounts, certain capital costs of a non-recurring nature.

Mr. Ashton

The Minister mentioned the cost of cleaning. Is he aware that since the Civil Service has put cleaning out to contract there has been a great deal of exploitation taking place among lady cleaners, and will he have a look at some of these firms which are strongly anti-trade union and pay terrible wages for long hours? Would he try to get some form of industrial relations in this business?

Mr. Baker

The exploitation of which I read was taking place in the early hours of the morning. I have asked for a report on what I read in the Press over the week- end. It is a matter for individual Departments to make their own cleaning arrangements.