HC Deb 16 July 1973 vol 860 cc19-21
34. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister for the Civil Service whether, in deciding his policy on dispersal of Government work from London, he will ensure that priority is not given to new towns at the expense of the older industrial intermediate areas in North-East Lancashire.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

We will give careful consideration to both new and old towns in the light of the evidence presented by the Hardman Report and after consultation with any who wish to comment. In the meantime, it would be wrong to anticipate how the balance should fall between new towns and other areas.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the people of North-East Lancashire have been puzzled by the Hardman Report's proposals to disperse a further 3,000 Government office jobs to the central Lancashire new town in addition to the 3,000 already allocated there, while ignoring completely the claims of the North-East Lancashire intermediate area, which badly needs office jobs to give it more balanced work opportunities? Will he therefore give a guarantee that North-East Lancashire and other intermediate areas will not have their claims sacrificed to the new towns?

Mr. Baker

I guarantee that I shall consider any representations made to me. Perhaps it is a little ungenerous of me, but I remind the right hon. Lady that when she held responsibility she made no recommendations for the dispersal of her staff anywhere in the country, let alone North-East Lancashire. But under the Hardman proposals the North-West region stands to gain 20 per cent. of the total recommended to be dispersed—6,300 jobs. Of these, 3,000 go to the Lancashire new town, 2,000 to Liverpool and 1,400 to Manchester.

Mrs. Castle

But none to North-East Lancashire.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon. Friend not be led unduly astray by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle)? Will he keep in mind always the claims of Lancaster?

Mr. Baker

Yes, Sir. I am glad to receive such blandishments from both sides of the House. The central Lancashire new town is very close to Preston and other towns in North-East Lancashire, and only about nine miles from Blackburn.

37. Mr. John Grant

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what discussions he has held with the Civil Service National Whitley Council Staff Side concerning the Hardman Report.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I discussed the report with the national staff side at the time of publication. Sir Henry Hardman joined in the discussions. There have been contacts with both departmental and national staff sides throughout the review, and these will continue.

Mr. Grant

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that it will be essential to retain the good will and co-operation of the staff side if this dispersal exercise is to be carried out successfully, and give an assurance now that there will be no redundancies among London civil servants resulting from dispersal?

Mr. Baker

I agree that without the good will of the staff side dispersal of any sort could not take place. I gave an undertaking to the staff side of the National Whitley Council on 13th June that there will be no redundancies among civil servants in the non-mobile grade arising from any dispersal decisions under the Hardman recommendations.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Hardman proposes to disperse thousands of civil servants to places like Milton Keynes, within commuter distance of London. This is a damned nonsense in terms of regional policy. Will the hon. Gentleman give serious consideration to this matter before deciding on the Hardman Report, and tell his civil servants that the North-East of England is one of the most pleasant parts of the country?

Mr. Baker

I think they know already, because Newcastle-upon-Tyne has the highest concentration of civil servants outside London. I shall receive representations from various regions and am willing to continue doing so while the period of consultation goes on. I have already received one delegation and representations from the North-East of England.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am somewhat mystified by my hon. Friend's reply to the supplementary question from the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. John Grant). Is my hon. Friend aware that it was part of the Conservative Party's policy that there should be substantial redundancies among non-industrial civil servants? When are these going to be achieved?

Mr. Baker

Taking non-industrial and industrial civil servants together, the last figures I published, on 1st April, showed a small reduction. I ask my hon. Friend to await the next figures, which may be even better.