HC Deb 17 December 1973 vol 866 cc941-3
39. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Minister for the Civil Service by how much average earnings in the United Kingdom have risen since the General Election; and by how much salaries of Government employed science graduates in technical employment and salaries of graduate scientists in the Atomic Energy Authority have risen in the same period.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

Average earnings rose by 47 per cent. between June 1970 and September 1973. During this period a science graduate entrant to the scientific officer grade received pay increases of 11 per cent. in January 1971, 7½ per cent. in January 1972 and 7 per cent. in April 1973. The problem over scientists' pay is that they did not agree to a substantial pay research review in January 1973 since they were dissatisfied with the basis of comparison, and we have now asked the Pay Board for its advice on the criteria for determining scientists' pay.

Mr. King

Does not that reply reveal a disturbing position—an 11 per cent. or 7 per cent. rise as against a 40 per cent. rise? Does it not reveal an unacceptable disparity? When entering the Government service, did not scientists think that they would be treated on a par with others? That has not been so.

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend cannot have heard me correctly, because the figures are better than that, but I fully acknowledge the importance of scientists in the Civil Service and I am sorry that this disagreement has stretched out for so long and that scientists have not come within the anomalies review. But I assure my hon. Friend that we are deeply concerned about this dispute and we hope that the Pay Board will report soon.

Mr. Swain

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one of the items in the Prime Minister's platform for the General Election was that he would seriously examine and cut back the number of civil servants? Can the hon. Gentleman now tell the House what number has been cut back and what additional numbers have had to be taken on to administer the vicious Housing Finance Act and the Industrial Relations Act?

Mr. Baker

That question is rather wide, but I have answered similar questions on this subject frequently and the last figures I gave, on 1st October 1973, showed that, taking industrials and non-industrials together, there had been a fall in the total number of civil servants since we came to office.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that scientists in the pay of the Atomic Energy Authority are extremely angry about the Government's policy and that the Government's excuse about the Pay Research Unit is wholly unacceptable to them, as was made clear more than two years ago? Is he aware that the fact that the Pay Board will not be in a position to make its announcement until the middle of January—apparently at the earliest—is regarded as yet another breach of faith? What are the Government doing to accelerate a settlement of this dispute?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman is being somewhat unfair. I am as concerned as the IPCS about this subject. We want to agree a new basis for determining relativities for scientists' pay and that is what we have asked the Pay Board to do.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Are not scientists in atomic research establishments of great importance at present when we are talking about increasing nuclear energy?

Mr. Baker

I could not agree more, but I wish to reassert that we are as concerned as other hon. Members about the fact that the dispute should have dragged on for so long. We are keen to agree a new way of determining the relativities for scientists' pay.

Mr. Sheldon

Is that enough, given the present situation? Is it not a fact that what happens in determining the pay of scientists is that the Pay Research Unit makes comparisons with the pay of outside scientists; but as the Government are the predominant employer of scientists, this kind of comparison has less validity, so that the Government scientists have fallen sharply behind as a result and something has to be done outside that framework?

Mr. Baker

I take the point. Scientists have said that a comparison with outside employment was not suitable for them though suitable for the rest of the Civil Service. That is why we have jointly referred the matter to the Pay Board, and I hope that it will report soon.