HC Deb 15 March 1973 vol 852 cc1475-6
Q6. Mr. Carter

asked the Prime Minister if he will give up his responsibility for the Civil Service Department.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Carter

Can the Civil Service any longer have confidence in a man who has clearly gone back on undertakings made to it when he was in Opposition? In these circumstances, would it not be the honourable thing for the Prime Minister at least to apologise for those original assurances?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I can tell the House yet again of the basis for the operation of the Civil Service which was agreed in 1971 between myself and those with whom we were discussing these matters. It was confirmed in the letter which said that we would adhere to the Priestley arrangements for pay research, subject to any requirements of an overriding national policy of general application". Whatever views there may be about the Government's prices and incomes policy, or what Parliament may carry through in legislation, no one can deny that it is an overriding national policy, that it therefore governs the situation, and that the Civil Service is in the same position as any other negotiating group.

Mr. Body

Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether, since he has been Minister for the Civil Service, there has been any change in the size of the Civil Service?

The Prime Minister

There has been a considerable number of changes. If my hon. Friend wants the details they can be made available in HANSARD.

Mr. Kaufman

Since the right hon. Gentleman retains these responsibilities, does he accept responsibility for the violation of Section 2 of the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Act by the award of a 16 per cent. increase to consultants on medical tribunals, which was implemented on 29th January and backdated to March 1972?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman wants to ask a specific question about that he can put it down to my right hon. Friend. As he has raised the matter, I will inquire into this to see whether it is a breach of the code. If it is, when the law is passed action can be taken against it. As for the civil servants, it is open to them to negotiate now for an increase on 1st April, and the longer the Civil Service unions put this off, I am afraid, the greater will be the delay to their members in getting what is available under stage 2.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Allowing for the normal qualifications about hiving off, and in relation to the question of his hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond), can the Prime Minister say whether the size of the non-industrial Civil Service has gone up or down under his administration?

The Prime Minister

The present figures show that it has gone up under the present administration. As I have said, if the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else wants the detailed figures, including the hiving off, they can easily be made available.