HC Deb 16 October 1973 vol 861 cc44-161

4.8 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the report by Sir Henry Hardman on the dispersal of Government work from London (Cmnd. 5322.) The report was published on 13th June. It is a short report of some 15 pages with highly detailed appendices. In the report Sir Henry recommends the dispersal of some 31,500 Civil Service posts. He sets out in the early pages three possible solutions. One he calls his "recommended" solution, which is on page 12. Then there is what he calls the "efficient" solution and lastly the "regional" solution on pages 14 and 15. When the report was published the Government made clear that it regarded the report as a consultative document. We consider that the Hardman Report is a good starting point, but we are not committed either to the scale or to the pattern of the recommendations of Sir Henry Hardman.

I said in June that I would be willing to receive representations and delegations. My door was open and many people have crossed the threshold. I have received many delegations, and have made many visits myself to the parts of the country mentioned in Hardman. I am very glad that in what must be one of the most arcane areas of government—namely, changes within the Civil Service—the Government have decided to treat this subject in a consultative document way. The process is indeed continuing, and I look upon this debate very much as part of that consultative process. Indeed, it would have been quite wrong fur the Government to come to decisions on the major aspects of Hardman, without first hearing the views of Members expressed in the House. So I shall not today be announcing any major decisions resulting from Hardman. I shall have one relatively minor decision to announce today arising from Hardman and another decision which does not, but those in no way compromise the main recommendations of Hardman.

I think I should very briefly bring the House up to date as to what has happened during the recess, particularly concerning one major recommendation of Hardman. Hon. Members who take an interest in this subject will know that one of Hardman's main recommendations was the dispersal of 11,000 Ministry of Defence jobs to Milton Keynes, which, as one hon. Member from the North-East told me, is just up the Edgware Road. Hardman himself had reservations about Milton Keynes and in his "regional" solution he suggested that the 11,000 should be split between Cardiff and Milton Keynes. The Government had misgivings about this recommendation from the start, and those misgivings were well founded. When my officials met during the summer officers from the New Town Corporation of Milton Keynes, we were informed that the maximum that Milton Keynes would want over the next ten years from one employer was 4,000. I am not necessarily saying that 4,000 will go, or that any will go, to Milton Keynes. But what I set in hand after that was a further examination of six specific areas to take at least 6,000 jobs, and those areas were Glasgow, Merseyside, Plymouth, Swindon, Tees-side and Cardiff.

I should like to deal with four aspects of Hardman this afternoon—first, the historical context—and I shall be very brief on that; secondly, the advantages of dispersal; thirdly, the choice of receiving locations; and, fourthly, the staff side. As to the background, dispersal of central Government work is a uniquely 20th century concept. The whole thinking right up through the great Victorian administrative reforms was essentially based upon the centralist philosophy, and the first time that dispersal was even considered was in 1938 and 1939 when plans were laid with the possible invasion of Britain in mind. One of the senior representatives on the committee, defending the staff side's interests at that time, was one Douglas Houghton, and I am very glad today to see the right hon. Gentleman in his place on the Front Bench opposite, and am glad to know that he will be speaking later. He brings to Civil Service matters great knowledge and great sympathy. I believe that during the recess he announced his intention of not standing again. I know that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will regret that and, may I also say, so will many civil servants.

Anyway, the plans that he laid together with his colleagues in 1938 and 1939 were so effective that on 4th September 1939, the day after war broke out, three trains left Paddington with 600 civil servants on each, to Bath. Harrogate and Southport. The dispersal this time will not be quite so sudden and dramatic. But that, in effect, was the first dispersal of Government work in our administrative history. As the House will know, several of those Departments stayed out of London—but not many. In 1945, one of the signs of the return to normality was civil servants coming back to London, and relatively small elements stayed out. During the 'forties and 'fifties there was little interest in dispersal, apart from one or two fairly sporadic decisions. There was one by Sir Stafford Cripps to base the Customs and Excise at Southend, and there it has been ever since.

But apart from one or two minor decisions, the next initiative was taken by the previous Conservative Government in 1962, when it asked Hemming to report on the possibility of dispersing Government work. He recommended the dispersal of 18,000 jobs, and the largest of these was the National Savings Bank, which went eventually to Glasgow. There were others as well. There was the dispersal of the Mint to Llantrisant, of the Savings Certificates Division to Durham and of part of the Department of Education and Science—basically, the Superannuation Division—to Darlington. That initiative was reinforced in 1963 by the establishment of the Location of Offices Bureau, and since that time a large number of clerical and administrative jobs in both the public and private sectors have been dispersed. This is a record of which both Governments can be proud.

The latest figures for the Civil Service show that 54,000 Civil Service posts have either been dispersed or are just about to be dispersed, and 70 per cent. of them are in areas assisted under the regional policy. If one also looks at the broader picture of the private sector for just the last ten years, the figures are Civil Service, 54,000; Location of Offices Bureau, 120,000; and nationalised industries, 13,000, making a total of 187,000, which simply means that if the initiatives had not been taken there would be 187,000 more clerical posts in London at the moment. That figure represents a town the size of Portsmouth, but if one also takes into account the wives and children who go with these jobs it amounts to 500,000 or 600,000, which means a city the size of Leeds.

That brings me to the initiative which we started on coming into office for the reform of central government, part of which was the Hardman review. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking Sir Henry Hardman for the work that he has done. I know that the report has been subject to a great deal of criticism, but it is a substantial piece of work—to some extent pioneering—and it was a very difficult task in that he had to examine some 50 organisations of government. I should like to thank him on behalf of the Government for the work that he did. It was a formidable task, because we are almost alone in the world of central governments in thinking of dispersing our staff. Sweden has done some, but the general pattern around the world is to concentrate central administration into administrative capitals—the Bonns, the Washingtons, the Canberras and the Ottawas of this world. But we have turned our face away from that pattern, because we think there are great advantages in dispersal, and Hardman looked at the remaining Civil Service work in London.

There is a general impression that most civil servants work in London and that they wear bowler hats, striped trousers and black jackets. That is not at all true. Seven out of ten civil servants work outside London and they do not dress like that—anyway, not those I have met—and they work in local offices providing services to the public, in the Department of Health and Social Security, in local labour exchanges, in our training centres and in our tax offices. So that the three out of ten who remain in London represent about 145,000 civil servants. Of these, very roughly—and precise figures are in the report—65,000 are in local and regional offices helping to meet the needs of Londoners in one way or another, and in that number I would also include the staffs of museums, such as the Victoria and Albert and the Science Museum. Hardman did not look at that sort of work but he did look at the remaining 86,000 jobs in central London which, as I said, are spread over 50 organisations. Of those 86,000 he recommends the dispersal of 31,500 or nearly 40 per cent., which is a very high percentage.

There have been some critics. Lord Provost Gray presented an "Unanswerable Case" to me last week, which I shall be answering, and there is "The Great Divide" from the North of England Development Council. They both made the point that they did not think it was a high enough number, which I think is unfair when one considers that on policy work in central London there are only 86,000 civil servants, of whom nearly 40 per cent. might be dispersed.

I should like to turn to where Hardman has advanced upon Flemming. These civil servants, engaged in policy matters, work right in the centre of the capital because they respond to the needs of Parliament, they work in support of Ministers and they have regular contact with other bodies which have their headquarters in London, like the TUC, the CBI trade associations, the media, Fleet Street, the City and pressure groups of one sort or another.

What Hardman has tried to do in the report—and I agree that there is a great deal of area for discussion—is to balance the effectiveness of this network, which has been built up in some cases over decades and in some cases over centuries, against the gains to the regions—the loss in effectiveness of the central policy-making machine balanced against the gains to the regions which dispersal would bring. He has tried to do this by introducing the concept of communications damage.

I was glad to see that some of the delegations who came to see me—I remember this point being made by the delegations from Coventry and from Teesside—recognised that there would be some communications damage. Later I want to explain how we shall try to overcome some of that communications damage.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

When the hon. Gentleman discusses the question of communications damage I hope he will also discuss the lack of understanding of the effects of dispersal which operate throughout the Hardman Report. The report says: …the dominant feature of the net benefits of dispersal is differentials in the market value of office space. Anybody who has gone into that subject cannot accept that as a statement of what the benefits are. When regional policy is estimated to cost £6,000 to £8,000 per job provided, how can it be said that the greatest benefit lies in the matter of office space?

Mr. Baker

I appreciate that. The hon. Member anticipates a point that I hope to reach in a few moments.

I should like to deal briefly with this concept of policy work. The essential problem is not so much the distance which policy work goes from London as the frequency which people need to travel over that distance for meetings and contacts, for which telephone communications, however efficiently used, are no effective substitute. There is a universal need for regular contact between people, and this is what distinguished Hardman from Flemming. Flemming was looking at executive types of work which can be done anywhere in the country and probably more efficiently outside London, such as the Post Office and the Department of Education and Science. Hardman has been looking at the central fabric of Whitehall, where there is a constant need for face-to-face contacts. There is a magisterial letter on the files from Lord Beveridge, who opposed wartime dispersal, stating that "no system of telephones gets over the difficulties of non-intercourse". Only somebody as holy as Lord Beveridge could get away with no double entendre being read into a statement of that kind. It will be acknowledged how useful face-to-face contacts are to us as Members of Parliament. Could any of us, even in Cardiff, conduct a surgery other than face to face?

The other advance which Hardman made is that he looked at some offices which Flemming did not look at—offices of public access, such as for example the Passport Office which is in Petty France. Hardman recommendts that it should go to Central Lancashire New Town. We have had several complaints from members of the public about that move. He recommends that the Immigration Department of the Home Office, to which the public have frequent access, should go to Plymouth. This was only recently dispersed from Whitehall to Croydon. I know that some Members would not call that dispersal, but there has been sharp criticism of the Immigration Department moving the comparatively short distance from Whitehall to Croydon. I only mention these points to show that there are various interested parties when one discusses dispersal.

Hardman recommends that the Manpower Services Commission, which is going to deal with the training programmes in industry—job matching and employment exchanges—should be based in Liverpool. We have already had strong objections from the TUC and the CBI to this proposal to base it in Liverpool.

Sir John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Could my hon. Friend say why these two august bodies object to such an office being on Merseyside, where we have first-class civil servants out of work and where the communications are very good indeed? It is two and a half hours by train, and even faster by air, from London. Do they think that we live in outer darkness on Merseyside?

Mr. Baker

The CBI and the TUC want the Manpower Services Commission to be based in a place which is only 90 minutes by train from London. I very much hope that my hon. Friend will make the views that he has just expressed very well known to the chairmen of the TUC and the CBI.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I will make a statement now, which the Chairman of the TUC will probably read tomorrow morning. I do not agree with him. I think Liverpool is the ideal place. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the proposals for Merseyside are inadequate because we have—and I say this without any question of contradiction—the highest level of unemployment in any one city in the country? Therefore we need all the jobs we can get.

Mr. Baker

I do not know what influence the hon. Gentleman has with the Chairman of the TUC, but I hope he will express his views as forcefully to him as he has just expressed them here.

The third advance on Flemming was that Hardman was looking at senior managerial work. One of the most depressing things that I see when I go round the country visiting dispersed civil servants is that there has been a dispersal of a great deal of clerical work which does not provide a sufficient career base for civil servants. It narrows quickly to a pyramid and almost to a needle. As a result of the Hardman recommendations there will be a very substantial proportion of senior jobs dispersed.

I should like to deal specifically with the point raised by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon). The main advantage, the main gain, in dispersal is undoubtedly to the regions outside London. As the Government consume resources, so it is right for Government work to be spread around the country to give something back in terms of employment opportunities. The dispersal of Civil Service work brings white collar jobs to our older cities and to our newer towns where all too often such jobs are very scarce. It can bring a choice where there is a lack of variety of opportunities. It can create opportunities where they do not exist. It is not so much the overall reduction in the level of total unemployment that dispersal can help. After all, 31,500 jobs spread around the country will not have a major impact on reducing the overall level of unemployment. It must essentially depend upon our economic and regional policies, and there is no doubt that these have been strikingly successful in reducing unemployment in the regions where over the last 12 months alone it has been reduced by 250,000 people.

Dispersal in the Civil Service improves the balance of work available in the regions. The deepest impression that I have had from the many delegations which I have seen—and I remember in particular the representations from Councillor Park of Coventry, Councillor Mrs. Taylor of Teesside, Lord Provost Gray of Glasgow and Alderman Pattinson of Plymouth—was their concern at seeing the schools turn out good, well-qualified youngsters who could not get suitable work in the areas where they had been educated and brought up. This intensifies the drift down to the "golden triangle" of the South-East.

One of the major advantages of the exercise, which I put at the top of my list, are the new employment opportunities which we shall be able to create for young people around the country. A further advantage is that there will be a cash saving to the Government which will emerge after approximately 10 years. That is set out in page 42 of the Report. Another gain is in resources. Sir Henry has estimated that there will be a gain of £5,500 for each post dispersed. That means a saving of approximately £170 million. That is due mainly to office rent differential.

The rent bill in London for the Government estate is £38 million a year. That bill is rising fast as old leases fall in. There is a strong financial argument for dispersing Civil Service positions. A further advantage concerns recruitment to the Civil Service. The House will be aware that the Civil Service is under-recruited in London. That applies to clerical officers, clerical assistants and executive officers. There is no doubt that outside London there are many qualified and in some instances, overqualified people who cannot get jobs.

Mr. Sheldon

The hon. Gentleman has dealt well with the benefits of dispersal in the reduction of office rents. However, Hardman left out and the hon. Gentleman has left out the benefits that come from producing jobs which cost money to create. The Government spend £6,000 to £8,000, on the best available estimates, in producing each job in the regions. The Government are now able to do that directly themselves. That cost is not entered into by the Hardman Report.

Mr. Baker

I think that Sir Henry would say that that factor has reasonably been taken into account in his calculations. That factor is quantified in the chapter on the resource gains of bringing into employment those who would not otherwise be employed. The emphasis which I have given to the advantages as I see them indicates that the great gain is to regional employment and to variety of employment.

There are four criteria for location. First, there must be good communication centres not only with London but with other parts of the country. Many areas selected themselves—namely, Glasgow, the North-East coast, Cardiff, Manchester and Leeds.

Sir John Tilney

And Merseyside.

Mr. Baker

The House will appreciate that I must be even-handed. I must listen to representations. I hope that hon. Members will not feel, if I do not mention their areas in any of the examples which I give, that I do not mention them because I do not believe that they qualify under the criteria.

The second criterion was to consider dispersal and regional administration centres—namely, places like Manchester and Cardiff and areas which have received Civil Service work. There was, for example, the Cripps decision in 1947 to take Customs and Excise to Southend. Once having taken that decision, and once the major part of Customs and Excise policy staff and its executives is at Southend, it is difficult to think of creating another dispersal centre.

The case is more dramatic for the Stationery Office. One thousand members of the staff of the Stationery Office have gone to Norwich and there are about 500 still in London. It would make no sense to consider further dividing that office. That would lead to diseconomy and disefficiency.

The third criterion is that the Government thought it fair to choose a few locations where they could concentrate relatively large numbers of civil servants rather than many locations capable of taking smaller numbers. The Government took that view not only from the point of view of efficiency but largely from the point of view of a career base. It is unfair to ask civil servants, who joined the Civil Service with a reasonable expectation of a fairly stable and steady career—maybe of staying in one location for most of their careers—to move around constantly as career prospects open up. I believe that the Government took the right decision.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

Is not the Minister overstating the case? Are civil servants asked constantly to move about? Is there any evidence to prove that point?

Mr. Baker

Yes. There are in the Civil Service 10,000 movements a year involving the sale of houses. That is a large figure. I shall return to that matter when I refer to staff anxiety and the point of view of civil servants.

The next criterion is one of the most subjective areas. It is clear that every delegation which I have seen believes that its needs are paramount. That I can understand. That is why delegations come to plead their case. Hardman tried to produce an objective analysis. He tried to assess the capacity of the receiving locations and the availability of trained staff. Further, he tried to assess the pattern of home ownership. Approximately 86 per cent. of civil servants own their own homes.

Sir Henry recognised and I recognise that the report can take us only part of the way. The report can produce the figures but we must make a political judgment. The last words of the report are as follows: But it is essentially for Ministers to decide. I appreciate that selection of receiving locations means exclusion as well as inclusion. I am sure that the House will agree that the principle of few not many is sound. I can assure hon. Members who represent places not in the list that we neither regard their constituencies as unsuitable for dispersal nor have we made final decisions on locations.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

The Minister said that there was a certain amount of natural law and that when there had been some dispersal to an area other dispersal followed naturally because it was associated with the first dispersal. I know that the hon. Gentleman gives an assurance that there will be no duplication of dispersal in areas which have already had some dispersal. Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that there will be no duplication until areas such as North East Lancashire, which is out on a limb, and the North Western region, which has not had any injection of professional Civil Service life, have been considered? Will the Minister ensure that there is no duplication in areas which have already received attention?

Mr. Baker

I take the right hon. Lady's point. I cannot give her that undertaking off the cuff but I shall consider the point which she has raised.

I have had representations made to me that we should not take into account the views of civil servants and that we should make our decisions and then produce the marching orders. That is unacceptable to the Government. The Civil Service has a system of consultations between civil servants and Department heads—namely, Whitley. During the last two years I have seen it working, and it works well. Such consultation is effective and it sets an example, in many respects, to the rest of British industry. It involves constant consultation at all levels.

I can assure civil servants that there will be real consultation. We must remember that we are talking about people. Civil servants accept their responsibility as public servants. Many have a duty to serve anywhere as a condition of their employment. That duty has produced, as I said to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones), some 10,000 moves a year. While the public interest must be overriding, let us remember that civil servants and their families are members of the public and not employment units to be shunted recardless around the country. That is why the Government commissioned the Tavistock Institute to do a report, which I put into the Library over a year ago and which was summarised in the report on the human aspects of dispersal. This was of considerable value to us. From it we have deduced certain principles.

First, there will be consultation. This is now taking place and has been taking place during the summer and autumn. Secondly, dispersal will be phased, probably over a period of some 10 years. There are still parts of Flemming to be dispersed. It is during this period that the local authorities in the receiving locations will, I hope, be as helpful and as forthcoming as they have promised to be when they have come to me as suitors.

Thirdly, we have undertaken to deal with the transfer terms and allowances—that is to say, the anxieties that civil servants feel that, if they have to move, they may be out of pocket—through the usual sort of allowances, legal costs, removal expenses and so on. We are also looking at possible house assistance. The problem is that if a civil servant living in Croydon has to move to Merseyside, for example—this must not be taken to imply that Merseyside will have any civil servants and I emphasise that it is just an example—he will sell his house in London and probably make a substantial capital gain. Or, of course, he might get a better house. But if later in his career he has to come back to London for promotion he is reluctant to do so. We are finding that many of the middle management ranks are measuring their future purely on the cash cost of coming back. We are looking into this and I hope to be able to make an announcement within the next few weeks.

Mr. Gordon A. T. Bagier (Sunderland, South)

Is not what the hon. Gentleman has just told us a case for ensuring that any dispersal that does take place into the regions does so at the highest possible level in providing a career structure in the regions to minimise the amount of movement back to the metropolis which ultimately takes place?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman anticipates my next point, which concerns the build-up of the career structure in the regions, which is what we would like to do as far as is possible. It will mean a lot of discussion with the Civil Service unions and I hope that we shall be able to move towards a really good viable career structure in many of the regions outside London.

The fifth principle is that we hope to use volunteers as far as possible in the mobile grades. I have already given an undertaking that there will be no redundancies in the non-mobile grades.

Mr. Frank Marsden (Liverpool, Scotland)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a civil servant moving from London could sell his house and refurnish his new house in Liverpool and buy a new car at no cost to himself?

Mr. Baker

I am sure he could do just as well by going to Glasgow or North-East Lanacashire, to Cardiff or the North-East. But I take the point.

One thing which has encouraged me is the previous experience we have had in the dispersal exercise. In the various visits I have made to dispersed work around the country, I have found very few people who have returned. By and large they like where they are, wherever that may be. They prefer the rhythm and tempo of the life outside London. They like the lack of commuting an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. I suppose that I have met some rather hand-picked people to tell me this around the country, but I think in general that those who go like where they go to. There is no doubt that they lead a much more relaxed and better life. We shall do our best to co-operate with the staff, while recognising that in some issues the needs of the service must have priority.

As I have said, with one exception, I have not come to announce decisions on the report. Those will come later. But I can inform the House that the Companies Registration Office of the Department of Trade and Industry will be removed from London to Cardiff, as Sir Henry recommended. It will be accommodated in the Maindy Building, which we have already undertaken to fill in the light of the current review. About one thousand jobs are involved. This is rather more than was mentioned in the Hardman Report. The move is necessary to enable the CRO to complete its programme of making its work fully efficient and up-to-date.

My right hon. Friend has considered very carefully the interests of users and the sort of issue put to him by the Law Society and the article in The Guardian today. He and the Government felt that the balance of advantage lay with dispersal. It will be accompanied by the creation of a London reading room for the benefit of those users who cannot arrange to consult the full company files in Cardiff.

The move will be carried out as soon as possible because of the pressures on existing accommodation and recruitment in London. In the meantime, within the Department of Trade and Industry, discussions are continuing between management and the departmental staff side on a number of issues involved in the move.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

This news will be well received in Cardiff and I have no doubt that all will do their best to make the incomers welcome. But why the difference between the 500 mentioned by Hardman and the 1,000 which the hon. Gentleman now mentions?

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman will recall that there was a proposal for the Ministry of Defence to send 1,500 people to Cardiff but that this was set aside pending the Hardman Report. May I take it that, as a result of this decision, consideration will still be given to sending people from the Ministry of Defence to Cardiff, as was also proposed in the Hardman Report?

Mr. Baker

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the decision to send the Companies Registration Office does not preclude any other consideration of the location of Government work, in Hardman or outside Hardman. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the figure of 500. Sir Henry Hardman worked on 1971 figures, when the establishment of the office was lower. It has been substantially recruited since. It is a part of Government which is growing rapidly—the investigation of company files and things of that sort—and the increase in its establishment is due very much to the natural expansion of its work.

I know that my announcement may be some disappointment to hon. Members from the North-East, since Sir Henry recommended in his regional recommendations the dispersal of the CRO to Newcastle. However, I can also inform the House that the Government propose to locate a substantial block of new work, not covered by Hardman, in Washington New Town.

We envisage that this will be for the payment of child credits under the proposed tax credit scheme. The House will recall the Report of the Select Committee on Tax Credits, which recommended that, generally, child credits should be cash payments to mothers, and that the Government have accepted this view. The introduction of such credits will be subject to parliamentary approval of the tax credit legislation, but it is necessary for arrangements to be made to ensure that accommodation would be available as required.

I cannot be precise about the size of the block at this early stage but it will probably amount to about 2,000 posts. This is, of course, additional to the Government computer centre already under construction at Washington, which will provide several hundred posts. If Parliament did not approve the child credit scheme, the accommodation would be used to house Government work already in the Tyne-Wear area, notably in the Department of Health and Social Security in Newcastle, which is likely to increase substantially over the next few years.

I hope both these announcements will be welcome to the House. They are, needless to say, as I must emphasise to hon. Members from other areas, without prejudice to decisions which the Government will be taking later on the Hardman Report.

Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)

The hon. Gentleman has given at least two assurances in his speech that decisions have not yet been taken. Yet we have just heard of two which have been taken and he kindly wrote to me some time ago to tell me of another two which had been taken, one of which involved the research councils. I think that I am correct in saying that, in all, five decisions have been taken. I am sure that many of us particularly from the Northern Region, are a little concerned that there is going to be nibbling of this kind so that, at the end of the day, there will not be the kind of exercise which many of us expected from the debate.

Mr. Baker

The two decisions to which the hon. Gentleman refers were decisions taken at the time of the publication of the Hardman Report. At the end of the report we see: In the meantime, however, it has already given its approval to the dispersal of the Science Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council to Swindon, following consultations between the Management and Staff Sides of these bodies. Those were the two decisions I was referring to, announced when Hardman was published. The only decision we have taken on Hardman is that which we have announced for the CRO. I can give the House the clear, categoric undertaking—

Mr. Dormand


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. I must draw the attention of the House to the number of hon. Members who are hoping to take part in the debate.

Mr. Baker

I think I ought to move on; otherwise the consultative process will be rather one-sided. Hardman has tried to measure the communications damage which could arise from dispersal. Some critics have said that he is exaggerating this, but it is equally exaggerated to say that no damage arises.

But I want to make clear to the House that the spirit in which we shall approach dispersal is a positive one. We shall make the dispersal which we decide upon work. We shall make the best use we can of developments in telecommunications, especially the one which has been pioneered for us as described in the Hardman Report.

I am sure that the Civil Service, with its long experience of dispersal, will respond imaginatively and efficiently to the new problems raised by dispersal. The Civil Service is one of the great assets of our country, and I know from the pride that it has in its work that it will want to carry out its responsibilities after dispersal just as effectively as now. We shall, therefore, be positive in overcoming these difficulties, because dispersal brings advantages to the regions.

Regional policy is about people, and the Government believe that there is a good deal of sense of taking jobs to people. In dispersing Government work, we can set an example and give a lead to organisations in the public and private sector. If the Government can do this, then so can they.

This is why we welcome the Hardman Report. I now look forward to hearing the views of hon. Members upon it.

4.54 p.m.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

May I say how much we welcome the two announcements made by the Minister about Cardiff and Washington. We are glad that this study has been made, but only because it has initiated a national debate on dispersal. Few reports in recent years have attracted so much detailed and informed criticism.

This report contains the most astonishing omissions, illogicalities and examples of faulty reasoning. To say the least, these create grave doubts about its value. The hon. Gentleman referred to two documents, one produced in Glasgow by a high-powered ad hoc committee set up by the Lord Provost and the other produced in the North-East of England, called "The Great Divide".

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has read what these two documents say about Hardman. The Glasgow document says: …these doubts are such as to totally discredit the report as the basis on which decisions should be taken. Let me select a very mild quotation from the North-East report: The Hardman Report fails to assess correctly the social values and economic assets of re-location in the assisted areas. On reading Hardman, one becomes more and more amazed at the inherent bias in the document against the dispersal of jobs to some of the more distant parts of the country, if "distant" be the right word. Glasgow is 400 miles distant, one hour away by air. Newcastle is 300 miles away and can be reached in 40 minutes by air. Cardiff, at 150 miles distance, is two hours seven minutes by train.

The overwhelming impression left by reading the Hardman Report is that the Civil Service has been the instigator, the witness and the advocate, and now we in this House must see to it that it is not the judge too. This report states the case of the Civil Service. Hardman should have stated much more than he has done the case of the regions. He really has not done that.

The report contains the most amazing inaccuracies about the regions. Let me give some examples. It says: …Teeside, where male unemployment is normally quite low…". In June 1972 it was 9 per cent., in June 1973 it was 6.1 per cent., against a national average of 3.3 per cent. Again, Hardman claims that Scotland received 1,540 new jobs in the Inland Revenue at East Kilbride when this was merely centralising the work formerly done in 65 separate offices. There was not a single new job there. At paragraph 31 on page 13 he says that: Glasgow has done well out of dispersal He does not mention that out of the 25,000-plus jobs which were dispersed before 1963 not one went to the West of Scotland. There are these inaccuracies in the report, which does not state the case of the regions.

We all understand, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman, that dispersal is a human and intensely personal problem for civil servants. As a Minister, I had a fair amount of experience of it. I dispersed a great many civil servants from the DES and the Post Office. We understand their problems. We have also to understand and appreciate the problems of the regions. We must understand the problems of the miners whose pits have closed, who are made redundant, and who must pull up their roots and look for work elsewhere.

We must also remember the congestion in London. I travel to the House on a No. 24 bus in the morning. This morning I had to wait in the rain for 30 minutes while bus after bus went past me full. This has to be considered, too.

Above all, the regions are areas with twice the national level of unemployment. They are areas with declining, older industries, with an acute imbalance between clerical and non-clerical jobs. For example, Greater London has 25.4 per cent. of the employed population in clerical jobs. Wales has 13.1 per cent., the North 13.4 per cent., Yorkshire and Humberside 14.2 per cent. and Scotland 14.4 per cent.

The Government have said that Hardman had to have regard to two main factors. First was the efficiency of government, and second the needs of regional policy. I do not complain about those. However, Hardman has grossly overstated the efficiency criterion and grossly understated the needs of regional policy. If hon. Members doubt this, let them look at pages 6 and 7 of the report under the heading, "The economics of dispersal." They will see that virtually nothing is said about the effects of dispersal on the economies of the regions. It is concerned almost entirely with the question of efficiency.

I turn to the report itself. In assessing the numbers to be dispersed, Hardman estimates that there are 17,900 persons who are irremovable and could not be considered for dispersal. I hope that we can be told by the Government tonight why the staff of the National Savings Committee—400—are irremovable. Why cannot they be dispersed? For that matter, why cannot the headquarters of the National Savings Bank, with 150 employees, be dispersed? I seem to remember that, when I was Postmaster-General, I took the decision that they should be dispersed. I do not know what has happened to that decision, but they have never been dispersed.

Among the dispersible groups, I read with amazement that my old Department, the Department of Education and Science, has no further civil servants who can be dispersed. This astounds me. Here we have the myth perpetuated by civil servants, that there are thousands of them sitting in a building, all advising one poor little Minister sitting in an upper room somewhere. It is part of the mythology of the Civil Service. By far the greater number of these people are administrators. It is astonishing that out of 86,000 posts reviewed as being dispersible Hardman could find only 31,000 to be dispersed. The starting point is for the Government to look at that figure in a much tougher way.

Hardman arrived at the numbers to be dispersed, and their locations, by two means: first, by prolonged discussions with the Departments concerned—I can well imagine what that meant—and second, by a cost-benefit analysis.

I want to say something about the cost-benefit analysis because it is here that the major flaws in Hardman's reasoning appear. The cost-benefit analysis is identifying and quantifying the benefits and costs and weighing one against the other. Hardman measured the benefits in terms of resources and social gain. He stated that the principal benefits were the savings in office costs, the reduction in unemployment in the regions, and the savings in salary costs for the Civil Service.

On the other side of the equation he measured costs in terms of loss in efficiency. This was mainly in terms of additional cost of travelling to meetings. On both benefits and costs, great doubts arise as to the validity of his findings. The so-called resource gain is the net addition to the national wealth by using resources previously unused. There is nothing wrong with that concept. It is the limited way in which Hardman used it with which I find fault.

He argues, for example, that if a new Civil Service job in a region is filled by somebody who is in another job there is no resource gain. That is nonsense. Somebody will have to fill that man's job, and at the end of the line there is a new job created. That is as much a resource gain as a brand new job created by employing someone who was unemployed.

Equally nonsensical is the small weighting Hardman gives to women who are not registered taking Civil Service jobs. Clearly, whether she is registered or not, if a woman starts to do a job there is a gain in the national productive labour force. Therefore, there is a resource gain. Hardman does not take these two factors into account.

Perhaps more serious still is the increase in the general income of an area when new jobs are injected into it. Here again Hardman underestimates the multiplier of new jobs introduced into the regions. Every hon. Member from one of the older industrial areas knows what effect a prosperous shipyard or a prosperous pit has on the whole economy. It makes the whole area prosperous, down to the corner shop.

There has been a study recently in Reading and Hemel Hempstead on the effect of office dispersal. Multipliers of 1.40 and 1.35 were found. This means that for every £100 paid in wages to office workers there is generated another £40 or £35 in other earnings, because the office workers spend some of their wages on local goods and services. Therefore, there is additional employment in the areas. The multiplier depends upon the size of the local economy. As Clyde-side, Tyneside, Teesside, Cardiff, Newport, Liverpool or Manchester are much bigger economies than Reading or Hemel Hempstead, the multipliers there would be much bigger.

This brings me to my third criticism of this side of the equation. It is the biggest error of all in the report. Hardman makes an astonishing claim that the resource gain does not vary much from one area to another, that it is the same in Milton Keynes as it is in Glasgow. [Interruption.] I would describe it, rather more elegantly, as arrant nonsense.

If it is not nonsense, the regional policy followed by both this Government and the previous Labour Government is nonsense. That policy has as its basis that a job created in a development area is worth more than one created elsewhere. Hardman does not take that view. He takes the view that resource gain is the same wherever the jobs are created. Perhaps this more than anything else casts doubt upon the objectivity of the report. We can be forgiven for regarding it as a report by civil servants on behalf of the Civil Service.

Fourth, the report fails entirely to recognise the resource gain in the reduction of congestion in London or the cost imposed on the community in London by an over-concentration of civil servants. The hon. Gentleman confirmed that those factors are not quantified; they are not taken into the equation in any way.

Fifth, the report makes no estimate of the effect on social planning of migration from the development areas into the South-East and the nonsense this makes of our social planning both in the development areas and in the South-East.

Sixth, I come to office costs. Here we have the major resource gain, according to Hardman. He regarded this as the dominant feature in the net benefits of dispersal. Imagine that! The reduction in office rents is the net benefit, says Hardman But his figures are out of date. One would expect that, because they are based on rents of two years ago. The figure for London is £5–£7 a square foot, and for the regions £1 a square foot. In the past two years office rents have increased by 100 per cent. in London and by 30 per cent. in the provinces. Hardman assumes the reverse, and by doing so he makes the regions look much more unattractive. He has grossly underestimated the gain from dispersal because of the narrow accountancy insis- tence on office rents being the major factor.

Let us look at the other side of the cost-benefit analysis equation—the efficiency loss. Here again, the story is equally astonishing. The efficiency loss of moving a Government Department to the provinces can be assessed in one of two ways. One is to look at the experience of decision-making civil servants who have been moved—there are many of them—to see what their experience has been and how much their efficiency has been reduced. On the other hand, one could attempt to quantify the anticipated efficiency loss if departments which are now in London were moved to the provinces.

Not a single hon. Member would not go for the first of those two methods. Hon. Members would look at the experience of people who have moved. Hardman does not do this. He chooses the second method, and tries to anticipate the loss which will occur when departments are moved to the regions. This deliberate choice of one method instead of the other or, better still, both is another factor which makes the report suspect.

Why did not Hardman look at the experience of people who have gone to the provinces? He gives three reasons why. First, he says that it is too soon. Let us take his own figures. A total of 25,000 civil servants were dispersed before 1963. I lived in Newcastle in the same house since I left the army in 1946. From my house I could see the Ministry of Social Security office which was built in 1946 and has been there ever since. Why could not the experience of the civil servants there have been taken into account?

Second, Hardman says that no records have been kept. That is patently ridiculous. Of course, the decision-making civil servants who have been dispersed could make an estimate of the journeys to London that they have had to make which they would not have had to make if the office were in London. They could make an estimate of the additional time they are spending on Parliamentary Questions over and above what they would have spent if they had been in London.

Third, Hardman says that mainly non-policy-making Government Departments have been dispersed in the past. Again, we get the old Civil Service myth of thousands of civil servants busily engaged in making policy and advising Ministers. What about the Scottish Office, the Welsh Office or the regional offices of the Department of the Environment? What about the DTI, which is making quite important decisions nowadays to dispense large sums of money on local matters? Could not the experience of those Departments have been taken into account? Could not they have been asked about the matter?

It is curious, to say the least, that the experience of the decision-making officers who have been dispersed could not have been studied for these rather laboured reasons. It is all the more curious because of the Tavistock Institute Study. When dealing with the human problems of dispersal, and when it suited it, the Hardman Committee considered the experience of the people who had been dispersed. When it did not suit it, it did not do that. This is preposterous. Hardman, when assessing the question of efficiency loss, took the opinions of people with no experience in the matter and rejected those of people with experience.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood this part of the Hardman Report. On page 43 it discusses the consequences of dispersal for Civil Service manpower. In the previous paragraph it estimates an increase in Civil Service manpower in dispersed units. Hardman said that he did not consider the manpower effects within Departments resulting from dispersal but it looked deeply at the experience and discussed with senior officials in each Department, including the Department in which the right hon. Gentleman served, how dispersal had worked so far. The right hon. Gentleman's point is not a fair one.

Mr. Short

In assessing efficiency loss, Hardman looked, by means of a questionnaire, only at the opinions of civil servants who had not been dispersed. He deliberately rejected the technique of considering the experience of civil servants who had been dispersed. If the Parliamentary Secretary reads the report more carefully, he will see that.

The Hardman Report said that the main factor in assessing the effect on efficiency was the cost of travelling time—not the fares but the time spent from the office in travelling by senior executives to meetings in London. Here again, there are some very dubious propositions and reasoning.

First, the report states that because the telephone is used in London to avoid meetings its further use cannot be pleaded to justify further dispersals. Anybody who knows how the Civil Service works realises that that is completely untrue. A Civil Service man in London will often walk to the next block or take a taxi from the City to perhaps Whitehall for a meeting to discuss something which could well be dealt with on the telephone. I do not complain about that everybody likes to walk out and get a cup of coffee in somebody else's office. But it is not good enough to assume that the telephone cannot be a substitute for face-to-face contact because it is already available and is not used sometimes in undispersed situations.

Second, Hardman will have none of technology. He discounts the use of narrow-band telecommunications systems, and yet the evidence submitted to him showed that up to 49 per cent. of meetings could be dispensed with if such systems were used. But he doggedly insists that the loss of efficiency can be measured only by the number of meetings which have to be abandoned and by calculating the cost of travel. He obtained his data by means of a questionnaire sent to senior civil servants. He takes no account of the fact that up to 49 per cent. of matters dealt with at meetings could be dealt with by narrow-band systems, and probably 20 per cent. more on the telephone and by wide-band visual systems. Hardman has no truck with the modern technology of communications. Nor does he make any attempt to relate the cost of such technological aids to communication to Government expenditure in other fields of job dispersal—for example, incentives to industry to go to the regions.

Third, on this side of the equation, Hardman takes no account of the acute problem of recruiting in London. The 1972 report of the Civil Service Commission commented that there were 400 vacancies for executive officers, practically all in the London area. It went on to state: The reluctance of successful candidates who cannot be offered a local post to accept an appointment in London was largely responsible for the short-fall. Hardman takes no account of that. He gets his facts about travelling time wrong in the most infantile way. For instance, he says that the train travelling time to Newcastle is 4.8 hours. In fact, it is about four hours, and in some cases less—3 hours 20 minutes. He also has the road travelling time wrong. He adopts a formula for calculating the road travel time which takes no account of the quality of the roads. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary is noting all these points. Hardman gives the road travelling time from Newcastle to London as 6.8 hours. In fact, the time is an hour less. I do it in 5½ hours. He gives the travelling time to Teesside as 6 hours, whereas it is 4.5 hours.

The whole cost-benefit analysis is so open to doubt as to make Hardman's recommendations virtually worthless. I do not think that any businessman would base his investment programme on such a demonstrably unsound analysis as this.

The Government chose not the specific locations but the areas. I do not complain about that except in the case of one area which is not included and which has one of the most acute problems in the regions, West Cumberland, because it is an isolated area and there is very little hope for it. I am deeply sorry that the Government did not include it among the areas to be considered. I hope that the Minister for Local Government and Development will take this point on board and will deal with it.

We have very little information about how the capacities of the various locations were decided. To take the city about which I know most, Newcastle has 200,000 square feet of office space vacant and a further 383,000 square feet will be available shortly. Planning permission has been given for another 170,000 square feet. We have 19 per cent. clerical workers as against the national average of 25.4 per cent.

The Hardman Report gives the whole of Tyneside—not just Newcastle—a capacity of 2,000 and assigns 500. Glasgow probably has a greater capacity than any other location in the country, yet Hardman states that its capacity is 5,000 and assigns 1,177. Teesside has 231,000 square feet of office space under construction. It has only 15.8 per cent. clerical workers. It is said to have a capacity of 5,000—this magic figure which bears no relation to the recommendations—and is assigned 1,610. Cardiff-Newport has an enormous catchment area. Again, the capacity figure is given as 5,000 and it is assigned something like that figure.

Having underestimated the capacity of the assisted areas, what does Hardman then do? He goes on to assign 10,890 places to Milton Keynes. One-third of all the proposed moves go 51 miles up the Edgware Road to Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes cannot take them and does not want them. Milton Keynes has a great many things. The Labour Government put the Open University there, which brought 1,000 jobs to the area, and it will get many other things as well.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

My right hon. Friend mentioned various parts of the country that had accommodation available. I hope that he has not made the mistake that most persons south of the border make in thinking that Glasgow comprises the whole of Scotland. A number of other parts of Scotland are just as entitled to get a share.

Mr. Short

I agree with my hon. Friend, but at the moment I am talking about this staggering proposal to move one-third of all the jobs 51 miles up the Edgware Road.

Even in the regional solution Milton Keynes is to get 4,672 posts. Imagine that as a regional solution! Basingstoke is to get 300, Southend 500, and Teddington 350 for the Government chemist. Why cannot the Government chemist go to West Cumberland? Why cannot he go to Carlisle, or to the Science Centre at Peterlee which is rapidly developing? This is an ideal small department for sending there.

Merseyside has a capacity of 3,000 and it is assigned 2,000. Manchester has a capacity of 3,000 and it is assigned 1,390. This will not do. We reject this recommended solution, which is an insult to our intelligence and to the people in the regions. Even the regional solution, as I have shown in the last few figures, is not regional enough.

Hardman said: …although dispersal has a real contribution to make, it is clearly not tailored to the needs of many areas in the way which, say, companies needing male manual workers tend to be. It is probably much better geared to the correction of an imbalance of employment (where office jobs are seriously lacking) than to the raising of a generally low level of activity. I do not agree with this playing down of the general benefit to the regional economies, but even taking that narrow objective the report fails to recommend an acceptable solution. The imbalance in the old development areas is not caused simply by the decline of old heavy industries. It is aggravated by the severe lack of opportunities in the service sector generally, and specifically in office employment.

I was glad to hear the Minister say that this report is only a starting point recommend the Government to go right back to square one and look again at the whole question. This dispersal exercise is an opportunity for the Government to make, perhaps, the biggest single contribution to correcting the imbalance in development areas. If it is frittered away by adopting these ill-considered proposals, the opportunity will not recur for very many years.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that more than 30 hon. Members hope to take part in the debate. I hope, therefore that all hon. Members will make their speeches as brief as possible.

5.24 p.m.

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I am pleased to have the opportunity of thanking my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for receiving a deputation from the West Country particularly from Plymouth.

I agree with some of the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short). The Hardman Committee reviewed only 86,000 civil servants. There are more than 500,000 of whom 300,000 are located outside London and only 43,000 are eligible for dispersal.

The motion to take note of the report is in the usual form. I regret that only too often we are asked to take note of a report. I hope that this time the Minister, who I am sure is sympathetic to what we say, will take notice of what hon. Members say about their constituencies and not just take notice of the report.

I was interested to read the statistics recently released by the EEC Regional Commission to the effect that 36 per cent. of Britain's population lives in regions that need help and qualify for EEC regional aid. In these statistics Devonport and Plymouth are mentioned separately, which I am glad to see.

The Hardman Report recommends that the Home Office, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and the Department of Employment should come to Plymouth, bringing 1,660 jobs in all. Under the heading "Regional solution" on pages 14 and 15 the report suggests that the Board of Inland Revenue might come to Plymouth, bringing 1,610 jobs. I understand that four members of the board have already visited Plymouth and have had discussions with the local officials.

One advantage of dispersal to Plymouth is that there is sufficient land available to enable the erection of purpose-built buildings. From many documents I have received from other areas it appears that there are premises which could be allocated for this use but they are scattered. Plymouth could provide buildings which would not be scattered and which would be available as required by the Civil Service.

For example, if it were decided to move these civil servants to Plymouth about 800 would come in one year, 90 per cent. of whom would prefer to buy their own houses. This would not interfere with the local residents and their need for council houses.

There is tremendous unemployment in the area among women and girls. Girls with five, six or seven 0-levels or with A-levels have little opportunity to earn their living unless they leave the city. The Plymouth and Exeter region has the lowest activity rate for females—only 27.9 per cent.

Many people like to retire to the South-West but when they get there many of them are lonely because they have come to a new area in which they have not worked all their lives. If they were to come to work in the area they would make friends and find life in retirement much easier.

The Hardman Report assessed Plymouth as having a capacity to receive 5,000 posts. As Milton Keynes does not wish to have the number of posts allocated to it by the Hardman Report, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence suggesting that more civil servants from the Ministry might be allocated to Devonport which already has many contacts with the Ministry. I understand that Milton Keynes is willing to take only about 4,000. In reply, the Secretary of State said that he had doubts of the adequacy of road and rail communications. He added that three of his senior civil servants would be coming to Plymouth to discuss the opportunities with the city. This letter was dated 16th August. I should like to know whether there has been any decision to send more civil servants to Plymouth and whether any action has been taken.

With local government reorganisation the opportunities in local government jobs have diminished because most offices will not be situated in Exeter.

As the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central said, the question of travelling time has not been adequately assessed by the Hardman Committee. There is, for instance, a train from London at 7 a.m. arriving at Plymouth at 10.40 a.m. There are trains back at 4.30 p.m., 5.30 p.m., 6.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. Civil servants could be in the head offices by 11 a.m. and be available for at least six hours' work, which is more than is suggested in the report. If they care to travel, as I do, on the night train, they can be in London by 7.30 a.m., do a whole day's work, and return.

What has not yet been mentioned are adequate facilities in regard to education. There are many grammar schools in Plymouth, although this may not be appreciated by Members of the Opposition. There are also Roman Catholic schools and a college, for those who wish to have their children educated in that faith. There is also a College of Further Education, a Polytechnic and a school of navigation, so there are excellent opportunities for the education of children.

Leisure time activities have also not been mentioned. The West Country excels in leisure activities. One can go rambling on Dartmoor, play golf, or go sailing or fishing. Whatever type of human leisure activity is named, it can be found in the West Country. I was interested to see, from page 86 of the report, that, although it discussed the question of environment for work, neither the Tavistock section nor any other mentioned the question of what people would do with their leisure time.

Regarding choice of area of dispersal, the Report shows that 31.6 per cent. of civil servants opted for the South-West, when asked which area they would prefer. That is a very high average. To date there are 100 civil servants in Plymouth and there are possibly 775 in the pipeline. However, Plymouth has the capacity to take 5,000 civil servants.

The report states in paragraph 9, page 50, that Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester already have substantial concentrations of office workers and this affects the ability of those cities to take more. The only type of civil servants in our area are those employed in the dockyard, where there are over 3,000 non-industrials and over 14,000 industrials. In the first category 613 are women and in the second category only 362. In view of the recent pronouncements by Members of the Opposition regarding dockyards, we are worried that these numbers may be cut.

The report refers, on page 14, to the "efficient" solution. Now that Milton Keynes is not agreeable to taking the number specified, Plymouth would be a very adequate place.

I wish to conclude by mentioning the reference on page 46 of the report, to the loss of wives' income which is assessed at £27,000, and I do not understand this I presume that wives of civil servants are earning money in their present areas. I can assure these wives that there is plenty of work for them in the South-West, if they wish to take up employment there.

With regard to the postal service and travel, I find that when I am unable to travel to Plymouth to appear on BBC or Westward Television I can take part in a programme from London. Why, therefore, cannot there be a television service linking offices in outlying regions with London? This would provide civil servants with a means of having a direct conversation with their opposite numbers in other areas. Distances should not be regarded as a handicap in considering the areas to which civil servants should be dispersed. The only consideration should be the happiness and working efficiency of those concerned.

5.34 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Bottomley (Middlesbrough, East)

This debate deals basically with the policy followed by successive Governments to ensure that the living conditions and standard of life for people in Britain are reasonably uniform. It has long been recognised that the North-East, the North-West, South Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been less favoured areas than others. Regardless of whether they have been called depressed areas, special areas, development areas or special development areas, circumstances in these areas have changed very little. Indeed, the comparison with the South-East is now little better than it was in the 'fifties, or possibly even in the 'thirties.

Many of us regarded the Hardman Inquiry into the dispersal of civil servants as a realistic attempt to improve conditions in the development areas. In this respect we are disappointed. The Hardman Report appears to concentrate upon so-called strategic and communication problems caused by the dispersal of civil servants from London. The social and economic needs of regions get little consideration. It cannot be justified that the South-East region, with 32 per cent. of the population, should have 46 per cent. of the employees of Government Departments. It is estimated that, in the South-East, there are clerical jobs for 8 per cent. of the male population, compared with 5 per cent. in the North-East, while the corresponding figures for women are put at 14 per cent. and 8 per cent. respectively.

The employment of white collar workers provides a better social balance for a region. The Hardman Report illustrates this by saying that the provision of clerical jobs provides better opportunities for school leavers. One of the major problems in Teesside has for a long time been the lack of employment for school leavers.

The long-term economic viability of the North-East depends upon securing clerical employment and service industries to combine with the concentration of heavy industry. Those who know the North-East are aware that it is a pleasant place, with a very attractive environment. It provides ready access to the countryside, and to national parks, and has a beautiful coastline and historic towns. It is a place in which one could work and live very comfortably. Travel facilities are excellent.

The report shows a lack of understanding of the transport services for Teesside. It quotes the train journey from London to Teesside as taking 3.9 hours, whereas it is 2.52 hours. The report states that the journey by road takes six hours, whereas 4½ hours is nearer the mark. There are three air services weekly—four in summer—and soon there will be six. Teesside is linked by air with Europe. The number of passengers carried by air in the first nine months of 1973 was as many as the total for the whole of 1972. Cargo carried was up by 200 per cent. in September this year compared with September of 1972.

I gather that the Minister, during a trip to the region, let it be known that there were a number of points which would be considered when a decision was made. There have been visits to Teesside by the Inspector of Establishments of the Ministry of Defence and officers from the Civil Service Department and the Property Services Agency. Senior civil servants representing the Board of Inland Revenue have also visited Teesside. I am confident that they will have reported faithfully to the Minister and that he is aware of the position on Teesside as a result of the information they have given him.

I am told that the Minister wishes to know whether there is enough office accommodation or land available for office building in Teesside. The answer to this is, "Certainly, yes". His colleagues in the Civil Service have looked at Coulby Newham, where it is possible to have a purpose-built centre for a branch of the Civil Service. The Minister also wishes to know if the area can supply the necessary workers. I do not think there is any doubt about this. In September the Barclay Card regional centre was opened in Middlesbrough and there were 400 applicants for 140 jobs. There are adequate houses, schools and social services. There are good quality houses in the area and the education services are good and are continually improving. There is also a wide range of recreational and social facilities. Indeed, anyone who has been to the Billingham Forum will know that it is one of the best social and cultural centres in the country. There are very few difficulties in respect of transport concerning Teesside.

The Hardman Report suggested that the Ministry of Defence might be dispersed to Milton Keynes. We are delighted to hear from the Minister today that that is unlikely. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence still insists upon having a site on the London-Bath axis. In this connection it looks as though Swindon is the selected town. One can imagine the arguments that could have been used when the Admiralty had to move to Bath, under the wartime emergency regulations. It was compelled to go there because there was no alternative. But I see no good reason why all kinds of employees, from the naval personnel to the Directorate General of Defence Accounts, should continue to be based at Bath. That applies also to many other civil servants whom it is not necessary to locate on the London-Bath axis.

There are other places, and Teesside is an admirable place to which they could be sent. Indeed, if they were sent to Teesside it is estimated that Teesside would be asked to provide about 5,000 locally recruited employees. As a result of the development of the Ministry of Defence at Teesside, these jobs would be mainly clerical and routine jobs. Many of them would be for the employment of women.

The dispersal of a substantial part of the Ministry of Defence could give a completely new role to Teesside. There would be wider job opportunities for local people, and the existence of many higher paid office and managerial personnel would help to produce a better balanced social structure. It would provide a stimulus to improvements in local education, cultural facilities, shopping and so on. Teesside's "efficiency" is underrated in the Hardman Report. Communications, especially with London, are much better than has been suggested. Teesside has the capacity, in terms of staff and potential accommodation, for a larger complex than that which is recommended in the report.

Most civil servants in the South-East are not aware of the facilities that Teesside offers. I know many civil servants who have been moved to Teesside, and people who work for some of the larger business organisations such as Imperial Chemical Industries. Once they have been stationed on Teesside they do not like the idea, even for a promotion, of returning to London or the South-East. The advantages of improved living conditions and access to the sea and the countryside would be a very welcome contrast to the quality of life in London.

The civil servants and the Ministers have had a chance of visiting Teesside, and Coulby Newham is being looked at as a possible site, along with sites in many parts of the country. But has consideration been given to the Crown land available at Eaglescliffe? The use of this land would avoid paying a high price for land which these days is at a premium. It would also have the advantage of joining an existing Ministry of Defence establishment.

I am particularly glad to take part in this debate. We on Teesside have missed out on every occasion in the past. We thought that we would get the Post Office Savings Bank. We thought that we would get the Royal Mint and the Government Computer Centre. We got none of them. We cannot afford to lose out this time. It appears that Teesside is to get the Board of Inland Revenue and the Property Services Agency of the Department of the Environment. I hope that the Government will support that recommendation. Consideration ought to be given, too, to the transfer of Ministry of Defence personnel either to the establishment which is already there or to Coulby Newham.

The Prime Minister has very often said that he believes in one nation and hopes to bring this about. It can be brought about if a beginning can be made by the Government agreeing to dispersals from London and the South-East to the regions. There must be an endeavour to do away with the inequality of the opportunities which exist in Britain today. I hope that the Minister will be very positive and strong, as he has shown himself today, in encouraging civil servants to move from London and the South East to other parts of the country, particularly Teesside.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)

There can be no doubt that the Hardman Report is a most interesting document. It has been compiled with a great deal of care and makes fascinating reading. Apart from that, however, I feel that it is rather useless. It does not attack the problem from the right angle. It does not start with the conviction that there should be a dispersal of the Civil Service but, rather, it seems from reading between the lines, from a belief that dispersal is a bad thing—necessary, perhaps, for political reasons but to be limited as far as possible.

Starting from that attitude, it is not surprising that Sir Henry Hardman reaches the conclusions that he does and finds facts to support his conclusions. That is why this sort of report is often very largely a waste of time and energy. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that nine times out of ten we start with a feeling of what we want and, having decided what we want, we very soon find the facts to support our point of view. It is not logic that guides us, but emotion as to what we feel to be the right thing to do. The Civil Service establishment naturally thinks one thing. Those of us like myself, who come from one of the regions naturally think another and a different thing. It is to the basic matter of principle, whether there should be dispersal and the extent of it—not the detail and the largely irrelevant arguments in the Hardman Report—that I hope that the Government will direct their thinking.

Sir Henry says that dispersal means a lack of efficiency. But he is looking at efficiency in a very narrow light. He is merely, and perhaps inevitably, concerned with the efficiency of the Government machine. But here in the House of Commons it is not merely the efficiency of the Government machine with which we should be concerned but the efficiency of the nation as a whole. Unless the spirit of the nation is high, no amount of efficiency at the centre will do any good, because that efficiency at the centre is obtained at the expense of the rest of the country. Instead of nurturing our national well-being it has the effect of bleeding white the peripheral areas and so reducing the effectiveness of the whole nation, however efficient the machine at the centre may be.

There is nothing new in what I am saying. The thought behind it is accepted by the Government, otherwise they would have no regional policy at all. If industrially stark naked efficiency were to be the order of the day there would be, taking an example from my area, no steel strip mill at Ravenscraig and no motor manufacturers at Linwood and Bathgate.

One school of thought is that to spread the jam in this way over the whole country reduces efficiency and means less jam in total, so that the right thing is to let industry develop as and where it wants to develop in a natural way, and that if it is allowed to do this it will produce the greatest return. That is the doctrine of laissez-faire, but that does not form the doctrine or philosophy of Conservatives generally or of the present Government in particular.

It was a Conservative Government in the 1960s who sent the motor industry to Scotland. That was a remarkable breakthrough. If in the interests of having a balanced industrial community it was right for that Conservative Government to take a hand in the dispersal of industrial jobs it must surely be right, on the same principle, for the present Government to disperse office jobs, too, and not only any kind of dull, routine office jobs, but also the important decision-making office jobs. This must be done if the country is to have any kind of balance in its leadership and opportunities and in the quality of life which having such a mixed community creates.

In the old days the centralisation of government in Whitehall did not perhaps matter much. It did not have the dampening and demoralising effect on the regions that it has today. It administered so little and there were plenty of important decision-making jobs in the regions. In my area, for example, there was coal, iron, steel and shipping.

Now almost all of them are gone. Nationalisation has been part of the trouble but another contributory cause has been the ever-increasing interference in industry of the Government machine, irrespective of party. Hence the need felt by industry now which was unknown before the First World War to have its headquarters on top of Whitehall. No amount of preaching by the Government of the merits of office dispersal will by itself do any good. But move the Department of Trade and Industry, for example, to Liverpool or move the Ministry of Defence to Scotland and in an instant there would be a dispersal of other decision makers and an entirely new spirit in the regions.

It cannot be done, Sir Henry says. What nonsense that is. We are living in a tiny island, not a vast continent and it is at least as quick to get from Glasgow by air to Whitehall as to get from Bath to Whitehall by train.

We are no longer living in an era when business can be done only when the parties are physically face to face. Developments of closed circuit television are making all that a thing of the past. As for those cosy chance meetings between civil servants that we are told do so much to fertilise ideas, do not the Government see that it is precisely the absence of this cross-fertilisation which is so damaging to the whole spirit of the regions and why we simply must have these top jobs, as well as the ordinary sort of jobs, in the regions.

Obviously the Government are faced with a choice and not a particularly easy one for them since they are the employers of the civil servants and they feel an obligation to have regard to their employees' wishes. Those wishes are to stay put and not to move to those dreadfully remote parts of the country more than 50 miles from London. I spend half my time in London and half in the regions and I have no hesitation in saying that the physical conditions for a good life exist much more in the regions than they do in London.

The Government are faced with the choice of doing something unpopular to their employees and perhaps causing a slight reduction in efficiency in their machine, but I urge them seriously to put their responsibility to the whole nation in front of the convenience to themselves and their employees. I urge them to take a large draught of the medicine they have doled out to industry and in the interests of welfare, social cohesion, the spirit and efficiency of the nation as a whole to drop the report quietly into the nearest wastepaper basket and to issue instructions that Departments should move from Whitehall to the regions. In no other way will the Government live up to our Conservative claim of being one nation.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Gorbals)

I speak for West Central Scotland but my argument will not be directed against any other region. That would be the wrong approach and I am glad that it has not been adopted so far.

I come from an area of high unemployment and I am deeply concerned about people who are unemployed in Liverpool, the North East and Wales, and therefore I welcome the announcement by the Minister of the jobs going to Cardiff and Washington New Town. Nor is it right for the argument to be advanced on parochial grounds or for us to appeal to the compassion or charity of the Government. We make our case in West Central Scotland purely on economic and good industrial grounds. We believe we have strong social factors to add to that argument.

The report is a challenge to the regions which have been sorely affected by vast levels of unemployment for far too long. It is a challenge to the Government to be honest about their regional policy. It is a challenge to them to show confidence in West Central Scotland where the figures of unemployment are double the national average in spite of the improvement of the last few months.

If the Government do not show confidence how can they expect confidence to be shown by private industry? For too long my part of the world has been the industrial dormitory of the south. We have enjoyed full employment when the situation was good but we have always been the first to suffer in any recession. We can no longer expect the highly skilled young people of the area who are better educated than my generation was to accept the long periods of unemployment suffered by many of my contemporaries. That is why mass migration of the best skilled personnel from my area continues.

The Minister referred to the excellent report produced by Lord Provost Gray and his committee. It was a non-partisan exercise which had the support of every sector of the community—politics, industry and commerce in the West of Scotland. We reject the insult of Hardman to the people in my part of the world. He makes many false assumptions and time does not permit me to deal with each of them. But we must heed the warning given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) concerning the efficiency of the Civil Service in the coming years. The number of advertisements in the London newspapers for Civil Service jobs is galling in view of the number of highly skilled people who are unemployed in Central Scotland and the surrounding area.

The other insult of Hardman and perhaps the worst of all, is that he reckons the city of Glasgow and the surrounding area is capable of taking only 5,000 jobs. He does not give figures on which he bases that assumption. How did he arrive at it? It is so easy to pronounce on the efficiency of a city or a regional area from the comfort of a London office. For too long we have suffered that type of decision-making. In London, there is one civil servant for every 49 persons. In the West of Scotland the ratio is only one civil servant for every 216 persons.

The other mistake made by the Hardman Report concerned the dispersal of jobs to Scotland between 1963 and 1972. He mentioned the figure of 6,481. Again that figure is misleading. Take for example the position of the Inland Revenue office in East Kilbride. We were told that we were given 1,540 jobs there. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the work was formerly done by 65 local offices. This to me is a poor example of resource gain, if resource gain is to be the criterion of this report.

The figure of 7,000 jobs, which is mentioned for the Post Office Savings Bank, is again a dubious one, because all the expert opinion in the area tells us that the maximum figure is to be 6,000 jobs, and possibly 1,000 less. Even at this early stage of that excellent and exciting industry, in that office complex in a part of Glasgow not far from that which I represent, there is a possibility of redundancies because of computerisation.

Those of us who represent Glasgow can state that the figures which the Lord Provost recently gave out about school leavers should be a lesson to the Minister and should show him the need for putting a major Department in that part of the world. At the last examination, Glasgow Corporation could offer only one clerical job to every four young people who applied.

I should also like to state that in the local authorities in and around Glasgow we had 13,989 pupils with SCE passes, and 1,500 of them applied for 300 Civil Service posts. Is that not a shocking waste of real potential? This leads to frustration in these highly skilled young people, which is one of the reasons why so many of them leave for Canada, America and Australia, and the country is all the poorer at losing people of that kind.

This is not a partisan argument, and no one underestimates the difficulties of this Government, or of any other Government, in doing a dispersal exercise. Anyone who talks to the civil servants and their families appreciates their apprehension and fear about the change of school and of environment, and we accept that they feel like that. Nevertheless, Mr. James Jack went to see the Scottish Secretary of State only last week and he had to tell him, after a very careful analysis, that there is a possibility of a rundown of 400,000 jobs in Scotland over the next few years, due to industrial and technological change. But the few jobs offered by Hardman appears to us to show a sense of complacency and to be a patronising gesture.

In conclusion, I should like to say that the whole of the West of Scotland without exception rejects the validity of the Hardman Report. We think that it is very wrong, it is prejudiced in regard to the regions, it is certainly based on the assumptions of civil servants and it looks only towards the needs of civil servants. I am sorry to have to say to the Minister that unless West Central Scotland can capture a major Government Department, and unless the Government give confidence to private industry to invest there, we shall have a continuance of high unemployment in the part of the world which I represent.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. R. W. Elliott (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)

I, too, will attempt to be brief, not least because I feel that in a debate of this nature we are all rather bound to make certain points. This debate is bound to take on a regional flavour. But I would agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) that whether we come from Central Scotland, from the North-East of England, from Merseyside or from anywhere else, we have a fellow-feeling for the unemployed and we wish to see the problem of unemployment cured, wherever it is. Automatically, one is bound to feel most strongly about one's own region.

A great deal of this debate must revolve around the civil servants who will be involved in this redistribution. Whatever may be said about the Hardman Report—and some very hard things have been said about it in this debate—if we accept as correct the number of those who can be considered for redistribution, we should recognise that the figure of 40 per cent., stated by my hon. Friend in his opening speech is a remarkably high percentage. So it is surely an exaggeration when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggests that this is the opportunity for a major break-through in redistributing workers in this country, if we consider the total figure of civil servants who can be considered for redistribution.

The right hon. Gentleman was very critical indeed of the report, but he made a number of points with which I agreed. Modern methods of transmission—television, modern telephone systems and so on—seem to be underestimated in the general assessments made in the report. I was interested in the right hon. Gentleman's suggestions about timing of travel. I travel a great deal from Newcastle, as he does, and the fact that the Hardman Committee has been sitting for two-and-a-half years indicates that there has been a lack of consideration of progress. It does not take quite so long now to get here by train but it still takes quite a long time, and the difference between 4.8 hours and four hours is not so great. If the right hon. Gentleman's assessment of how long it takes him to get from Newcastle to Westminster in a motor car is correct, then all I can say is that either I must be a very had driver or he must have a much more powerful car than I have.

All I should like to suggest is that, as my hon. Friend said, the Hardman Report is not the end of the consideration of the problem and it will be part of the continuing discussion. However much of the Hardman Report may be accepted or rejected by the Government, my hon. Friend has been most willing to receive many of us in his Department with representatives from the regions, and has been most willing to listen to what we had to say. I was part of a delegation which he received during the summer, and the patience with which he listened to the claims of the North-East of England for some of he dispersed civil servants was highly commendable. On that occasion he made the point, to which I return, that the number of civil servants who can be redistributed is small in number.

The right hon. Gentleman the Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned the Department which he can see from the windows of the house in which he has lived since 1946. We are all very pleased indeed to have that enormous department of the DHSS in Newcastle, but I would point out that it is not a policy-making department; it is wholly administrative. It is being forgotten by the people who have taken part in this debate that it is the policy makers that we are asking should be redistributed, and it is not so easy to do that.

It is worth putting on record that during that summer meeting in which I took part my hon. Friend emphasised his enormous concern for the civil servants who will be involved in this dispersal. It is not very easy to be uprooted and sent into the regions. One takes the point that it is easier to buy a house in Liverpool or in Glasgow, and that one can have a motor car or a new suit or whatever it is thrown in as well. But unless there is a substantial career structure following the Hardman Report, and following the Government decisions arising from it, I am quite sure that civil servants will greatly fear being moved out to the regions. My main plea this afternoon is that if we are to have action subsequent to the Hardman Report—and I sincerely hope that we are—a substantial career structure should be established in each of the regions to which these civil servants will go.

May I say to any civil servants who are to come to the North-East of England that we shall be very delighted to have them there. May I also express, as did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, my extreme pleasure at the announcement made this afternoon of 2,000 new white collar jobs in Washington New Town. This is splendid news and will be very well received in the North-East.

Mr. Sheldon

The point that the hon. Gentleman is making about a career structure in the regions is important, but equally important is the need to recognise that any permanent secretary or anybody who aspires to the highest offices in the State should have behind him some service in the regions. The sooner this is accepted, perhaps the greater acceptance will the report receive in principle.

Mr. Elliott

I wholly accept that. I know that my hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Government are taking civil servants fully into consideration. In our demands to have civil servants sent to us, we must give them some form of security of tenure in the shape of a career structure, and I agree about the desirability of junior civil servants being relatively permanent as well.

I say again to the civil servants who are to come to Washington New Town, or anywhere else in the North-East of England, that they will be most welcome. My own region will welcome them and will be delighted to have them there. This is a region which has had an enormous amount of redevelopment recently. We have had the great problem of declining industry, and the change has been progressive.

Let no civil servant imagine that this is a backward or dull area. Those civil servants who have come to us have liked it enormously and they would not like to be returned to London. The quality of life in the region is so much better than in London. We all know that when we go back there at weekends. We very much hope that civil servants will agree that the quality of life is better. My own region has improved greatly, particularly in the last year. The Director of the North-East Development Council, in his annual report, said "Who a year ago would believe that there could have been as much progress in a year?"

We have got our unemployment down by 30,000 in a year; 10,000 jobs have been brought in and there are current proposals for another 9,000 jobs. We have 19 advance factories, the biggest advance factory programme that this country has ever known. A new centre for advice to small businesses recently opened in the City of Newcastle. Above all else, the quality of life has been greatly improved. No civil servant should imagine that we have not got considerable cultural activity. We have a beautiful countryside and excellent communications.

However, we also have a remarkable amount of unemployment and, although reference has been made to the enormous complex at Long Benton, it is only fair to say that there is a staff recruitment problem there and we should bear this in mind when suggesting that Departments should move out. We still have an enormous training problem. If we are to have new establishments of any kind—Civil Service or otherwise—in our region, we must consider more urgently, even though we have done a great amount in recent years, more training and retraining in the regions.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Hardman Committee—and it sat for quite a while—had listened only to civil servants. I cannot believe that this is so, but I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will take up this point when he replies to the debate. I agree with one or two things which the right hon. Gentleman said. The original suggestion for Milton Keynes in terms of numbers has been somewhat irritating to us all.

I should like to make a firm plea for my region. We would be delighted to have a substantial defence personnel establishment in the North-East. I agree also with the right hon. Gentleman that there is in the northern half of the country an area which distinctly needs assistance, and that is West Cumberland. Could more consideration be given to the Government Chemist being placed there, bearing in mind all that it would mean for that part of the country?

This debate is very useful and I am sure the Government will take full note of what has been said. There has been considerable criticism of the report, but I thank Sir Henry Hardman and those who sat with him for having produced it, for it has produced the basis for an excellent debate.

Mr. Speaker

The last five speakers spoke on average for about 10 minutes each. If hon. Members keep that up, it should be possible to call all those who wish to speak.

6.18 p.m.

Mr. Edmund Dell (Birkenhead)

I will not take up the time of the House in describing the beauties of my constituency. I did that in my maiden speech and I believe it was acceptable to the whole House. Merseyside does very badly out of this report. We do not even get the number of jobs that we would do under what is described as the efficient solution. We do much worse than that in the recommendations in the report.

This seems to me to be typical of an attitude, which the Government share, which is found not merely in this report, that Merseyside needs less help than other development areas—that it does not need, for example, to have a special development area in its industrial centre. All the facts of the situation are proving that the Government are wrong in this respect. Ministers will be asked to receive a delegation from Merseyside and I hope to be on that delegation. We shall present the argument in detail.

In consideration of the time, I want to make only one point, which is this—and I hope the Government will take it: there has been a grave deterioration, relatively speaking, in the situation on Merseyside, and I should like to illustrate that statement by a few simple figures. In September 1973 unemployment in the Liverpool travel-to-work area, which includes my constituency of Birkenhead, was 6.5 per cent. The United Kingdom level of unemployment was 2.4 per cent. Hon. Friends of mine have spoken of unemployment in their areas being double the national average. In my area it is three times the national average.

So far as I can ascertain, the last September when the national rate of unemployment was 2.4 per cent. was in September 1969. At that time unemployment in the Liverpool travel-to-work area was 4.1 per cent.—one third less than it is today. In September 1968 when the United Kingdom level of unemployment was 2.4 per cent. in the Liverpool travel-to-work area it was 3.7 per cent. There has been this grave deterioration as compared with the national average.

Let us see what the situation is in other development areas—and I say this in no competitive spirit because I do not deny their need for jobs. Looking at the September 1973 figures given on page 25 of the Monthly Digest of Statistics, one finds that the unemployment rate in Scotland is 4.1 per cent., in Wales 3.5 per cent. and in the North 4.5 per cent. In the Liverpool travel-to-work area the figure is 6.5 per cent. Merseyside now has a more serious unemployment problem than any other development area.

I was sent by Mr. William S. Gray, Lord Provost of Glasgow, a copy of Glasgow's "Unanswerable Case". In page 30 he lists unemployment rates in July 1973. The Liverpool travel-to-work area comes off worst amongst the cities which are listed. The rate of unemployment in Glasgow was 5.9 per cent. and in Liverpool it was 6.6 per cent. That is a deterioration because only a few years ago the rate of unemployment in Merseyside was relatively better than in other development areas. It is now relatively the worst.

In the reconsideration which the Government are now giving to the report and to the dispersal of civil servants, they must take account of the changed position of Merseyside. It is no longer possible to brush Merseyside aside as the easier development area. It is now a much more serious situation. I hope that the Government will think again about Merseyside in the reconsideration of the report to which the Minister referred.

6.21 p.m.

Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

I think that I am the first hon. Member to speak in this debate who comes from the South-East of England. I represent that attractive place 50 miles up the Edgware Road about which we have heard so much this afternoon, the new city of Milton Keynes.

I was considerably relieved to hear my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department announce that the large influx of civil servants which is postulated in the Hardman Report will not now take place. It was regarded as a compliment to the new city that this proposal should be made and that Milton Keynes should be considered as a suitable location for the Ministry of Defence. However, the Corporation has taken the view, and I am sure that it is right, that the number proposed is far too large and that even if it were spread over a lengthy period it would create a dominant industry position which we are most anxious to avoid. We have far too many disastrous examples from Dagenham to Glenrothes to welcome such a situation.

The new city would welcome a lesser number of civil servants from the Ministry of Defence along the lines of Hardman's second alternative. From the national standpoint, however, I am sure that other considerations should apply.

There are two aspects of the report to which I shall refer briefly. I am sure that it is wrong to put too much emphasis on the problems of communications. Communications must be made to meet the demands of dispersal and not the other way about. The pace of advance in this medium is great. Obviously it was not part of Sir Henry's brief to peer into the future technology of communications, but it can be said with safety that communications will get easier and will get more efficient. Thus the problems of expense and distance will be greatly reduced as time goes on. Therefore it seems wrong to make this an excuse for not moving the headquarter staffs, the policy-making personnel. I do not accept that such a contention is valid.

I now turn to London and the South East. Hardman's terms of reference did not include the social problems of the metropolis and the surrounding area. However, we have discussed the problems of the South East in other debates before the recess. We all know about the imbalance which exists in London and the pressures which are involved. The office rent situation is part of the cost benefit analysis in the Hardman Report. A rent of £5 to £6 a square foot is quoted. Of course, that was two years ago and we know that it is now approximately £10 to £12 a square foot. Therefore, the savings here are a great deal more now.

Far more important is that London and the South East comprises a housing stress area. If only 15,000 people out of the total of 30,000 move from the metropolis or the South East to a development area, that means that 15,000 fewer houses will be needed in the area and this should be represented in the cost-benefit analysis. Thus we have a marvellous opportunity to diminish, albeit marginally, the pressures which now exist in the South East. That is a matter which is completely under Government control and on which the Government can take the decision.

However this presupposes that the movement will take place out of the South East as a whole. It is no good trying to relieve the pressure by moving people from London to another part of the South East. It is necessary to move people out of the South East completely because the pressures are the same throughout the area. There will not be a net advantage unless we do that. The Government will be fully justified if they decide that dispersal can go only to those areas outside the South East where unemployment exists.

Those who approach the problem as laymen, without specialist knowledge, know firstly that planning and growth is entirely related to employment possibilities. Secondly, no one wants to move. That is a fact of life. As far as the former is concerned, the job opportunities in the South East both now and in years to come will ensure prosperity to a large degree. The task of creating a reasonable environment will not be affected by the removal of 30,000 potential jobs from the South East.

The objection to moving is another matter. It is so very understandable. I do not want to hurt the feelings of hon. Members who come from the areas concerned, but they must accept that some of these areas do not have the best of images. If I were a civil servant I confess that my heart would sink if I were asked to move to Glasgow, or Cardiff or indeed to the Central Lancashire new town.

Miss Mary Holt (Preston, North)

It is quite obvious that my hon. Friend has no acquaintance with the beauties of the Central Lancashire New Town and the surrounding country.

Mr. Benyon

I expected that reply. Nobody who has discussed the matter with the people who are established in London and the South East, will be unaware of the fears engendered by such a move. That is a matter which must he understood.

The Government must back their words with deeds. They and their predecessors have encouraged industry to move to the development areas. They must take the same decision with their own employees.

6.28 p.m.

Mr. Ted Fletcher (Darlington)

There are many reasons why the Hardman Report should not be accepted by the Government. I do not intend to go into all those reasons except to express the hope that they follow the advice which has been given of consigning it to the wastepaper basket. The inadequacy of the report has been brilliantly highlighted by my right lion. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short).

I wish to focus attention on only one aspect of the report—namely, the imbalance of clerical employment between London and the South East and the North East Regions. I do not wish to weary the House with statistics but it is important to note that for every 49 people employed in London one is a civil servant whereas in the North East only one out of every 300 people employed is a civil servant. That ratio is reflected in industry generally. In the 1966 census we find that 8.7 per cent. of males employed are in clerical jobs and that in the Northern Region the figure is only 5.1 per cent. In London and the South East, 14.5 per cent. of employed females are in clerical occupations whereas in the Northern Region the figure is only 8.3 per cent.

According to the figures issued by the Department of Employment the number of school leavers entering clerical employment per thousand of the working population is 153 boys in London and the South East as against only 71 in the northern area. The number of girls entering clerical employment per thousand of the working population in London and the South East is 432 compared with only 336 in the Northern Region. It is because of lack of job opportunities that thousands of our best and most brilliant youngsters have to migrate to the Midlands and the South in order to net clerical employment and other job opportunities which do not exist in the regions.

The Prime Minister claimed that the Government's regional policies are now bearing fruit, but unemployment is still greater than it was in 1970, when the Government were elected. In spite of frequent statements that the number of unemployed is being reduced, it has not yet been reduced to the figure which existed in 1970.

It is interesting to note that job opportunities are being further restricted because the number of jobs is decreasing in the Northern Region. In reply to a parliamentary Question on 4th July, the hon. Gentleman said that seven years ago, in 1967, there were 891,000 male jobs in the Northern Region and that this figure had been reduced by 1972 to 841,000—that is to say, there had been a loss of 50,000 jobs for men in the region. So the dispersal of Civil Service clerical jobs is important because it could act as a pump priming operation. It could induce private industry to set up offices in the regions and additionally the Government could put some pressure on the nationalised industries to transfer their offices into the regions.

So we have to consider this question not only as a regional problem but as a national problem because the Hardman Report could act to attract industry to the regions and take away some of the serious problems of congestion in the London region. It could make some contribution to solving London's problems as well as our regional problems.

London has now become the largest and most expensive office centre in the world. Altogether, 300 million square feet of offices are occupied in London. I do not know how many are unoccupied but, as we know, their value continues to increase although they are unoccupied. New York has only 200 million square feet of offices. But the rent per square foot in London averages £14 to £16, whereas in New York new office buildings can be rented for £4 a square foot and in the Northern Region for £1.25 per square foot.

In London it often costs more to pay for the accommodation of a clerical worker than it does to pay his wages. The hon. Gentleman mentioned £38 million as office rents—a lot of it going into the pockets of property developers in London. I should like to see an analysis done—perhaps I will put down a parliamentary Question—of the proportion of costs of office space per clerical worker in London compared with office space in the provinces.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

If he does so, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not restrict his question to what it costs the central Government but will extend it to cover what it costs to have offices generally sited in London. I was staggered to find that the new, Socialist-controlled Greater London Council has taken offices in my constituency at a cost of £12 per square foot.

Mr. Fletcher

No doubt that is true, but one can hardly expect the GLC to set up its offices in Newcastle, where it would cost £1.25 per square foot. Obviously the Greater London Council has to site its offices in London. But that does not apply to the Government. Office building in London is increasing at the staggering rate of 7 million square feet a year, and yet we find that there is great difficulty in recruiting clerical staff, not only into the Civil Service but generally. We have reached the situation where employment agencies are getting people from South Africa, Canada and elsewhere and are even advertising in Hong Kong for secretaries to work in London, whereas a clerical vacancy in Sunderland will attract over 100 applicants.

London is paying a heavy price in pollution, traffic congestion, high price housing and so on because of the concentration of clerical employment. It is not often realised that in the centre of London—the tiny area bounded by the main line termini of the railways—1½ million people work, although only 300,000 people live there. They face all the problems of commuters in congestion, high fares and other expenses, yet Hardman talks about operational efficiency. Where is the operational efficiency in having to travel an hour or two hours to get to one's job?

Have statistics ever been taken as to how many civil servants get to work on time? There must be many occasions when they are half an hour or an hour late in reaching the office because of the travel situation. There is not much operational efficiency in a situation of congestion. Thus, Hardman could have made some contribution to solving the problems of London as well as of the regions.

I urge the hon. Gentleman to have another look at the situation and not to talk in terms of the dispersal of the quite inadequate number of 31,000 jobs. If this matter is to be dealt with adequately we need twice as many jobs, not in ten years' time but within the next two or three years, in the regions, and if the Government had the will and put in the effort it could be done.

We believe that the regions have an unanswerable case for the widespread diversion of clerical employment. It has not been dealt with adequately by the Hardman Report and therefore, if the Government intend to take the problem seriously and if they have any sense—which I doubt from some of their recent policies—they will decisively reject the Hardman Report as totally inadequate.

6.37 p.m.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)

Before entering this House, I spent some 16 years as a civil servant, some of the time under your wise guidance, Mr. Speaker. I learned one thing above all—that, when a Minister calls for a report to conduct a fundamental reappraisal of Government policy in any particular sector, what he is asking for and what he will receive is a completely new set of reasons why the Government should go on doing what they have been doing all the time. The Hardman Report is no exception to that rule, scrupulously as Sir Henry carried out his task within the terms of reference he was given.

The trouble is that the question he was asked to answer was the wrong question. He was asked, in effect, "How much dispersal of Government offices is consistent with the retention of efficiency?" The answer to that must be, "Very little"—particularly since the review was sponsored by the Civil Service Department. But the present Government are equipped to take a more global view. They have given themselves organisations such as the Central Policy Review Staff to enable them to rise to higher viewpoints.

The Government could have asked the question instead, "What is the minimum degree of dispersal of Civil Service offices which is required as an essential ingredient in an effective regional policy?" An effective regional policy, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out—deeply as it grieves me to have to agree with him—is one which will produce a better balance between blue-collar and white-collar jobs. Such a policy, which is desirable at all times, is indispensable once the decision is taken, as it has been taken by the Government, to go for growth as the top priority, for otherwise growth will be environmentally intolerable in its consequences and very probably impossible to achieve because of bottlenecks, congestion and shortages.

The normal methods of regional policy are fairly effective in dispersing industry. But regional incentives on the whole have not proved so effective in improving the unsatisfactory balance prevailing in nearly all regions between blue and white collar workers. This is a matter in which the only fully satisfactory form of incentive is direct Government action. Dispersal of offices is direct Government action. The effectiveness of such action should not be measured solely by the impact on the unemployment level. It is not just because of their high unemployment rates that many of the regions have a disproportionate need of Government jobs or that they will derive disproportionate benefit from them.

The characteristic in many of these areas is not just high unemployment, it is a low level of economic activity, which is not the same thing. This is particularly true of the one region not so far mentioned, North Wales. I remind hon. Members that Wales does not necessarily mean South Wales. There is also North Wales. While other regions are complaining, often with justice, that they have received too little from the Hardman recommendations, North Wales has received nothing at all. It is, however, a region which has suffered particularly badly from direct Government action. It was direct action by the nationalised British Steel Corporation which phased out steel making at Shotton, costing many thousands of job opportunities in North Wales. It was the decision of the National Coal Board to stop operations at Gresford Colliery which is again losing many thousands of jobs in the Wrexham area.

Moreover, North Wales has suffered over the years from the culpable neglect, by successive Governments, of its urgent transport needs. It has a road system which is totally unacceptable by modern standards. It has a system of rail communications which is gradually deteriorating. It has no air transport facilities. Yet it is a region particularly suitable to receive Government Departments, many of which found a satisfactory home there during the last war. There is a pool of available labour there not just among the unemployed but among those, largely women, who do not register for work because there is no prospect of them getting it.

To bring Government work to North Wales would produce a valuable net addition to the country's labour force. This is an immense benefit not even considered by Hardman. North Wales is an attractive area. It is a pity that when people likely to be affected by the move were questioned about whether they fancied the idea of moving they were not given the opportunity to specify North Wales, which clearly has a more attractive image from the point of view of dispersal than that of Wales generally, conjuring up, as it does, visions of the industrialised South and West. A more fundamental review is needed, sponsored or conducted by the Central Policy Review Staff.

Even within the unduly narrow terms of reference of the Hardman Report, North Wales has powerful claims which it should be possible to satisfy. There are 4,000 jobs available because of the understandable unwillingness of Milton Keynes to accept them. I hereby put in the claim for North Wales to receive its fair share of those jobs.

6.44 p.m.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

I will not follow the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) in his special pleading for North Wales. I could equally well do the same in respect of Mid-Wales. He should have addressed his mind to the question, should the dispersal be to few centres, as adumbrated in the report or to many centres? There could then have been an interesting debate. I accept the principle that dispersal should be to many centres. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the wrong question was asked of Hardman.

The right question to ask was this: what degree of dispersal is desirable in the present state of development of our country without an adverse risk to efficiency? It was difficult to discern from the Minister's opening speech what the Government's attitude was towards this report. He firmly refused to hang his hat on the Hardman peg just in case it gave way. After the extremely effective demolition job by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) it very nearly did give way. In the earlier part of his speech, dwelling on this historical background, the Minister referred to a letter written by Sir William Beveridge, as presumably he then was, which suggested that there should be no kind of dispersal. That language sounds rather quaint these days, talking about the importance of direct intercourse. That was presumably 30 years ago, some time during the war.

An enormous revolution in communications has taken place in the 30 years that have passed since that letter was written. Not only that, but an enormous change has taken place in our country. From Tudor times at least until the last war all paths led to London to reach the outside world. Everything tended to centralise in London and the brightest talent in all our regions was creamed off. If they did not stay in London they went to our colonies. What we do not fully appreciate now—and this debate is part of the process—is that for the first time for centuries this country is being driven back on to its regions.

Much has been said about the quality of life in different regions. It is natural that any hon. Member should emphasise the high quality of life in his or her area. In considering the dispersal of the Civil Service we ought to have two things in mind. When a man truly concerned with regionalism is speaking it is not a question of the regions in relation to London but of the regions in relation to the South-East region of which London is an essential part. In considering life in the South-East of England and particularly in London it is true that many of the attributes of a high quality of life are more evident in London than almost anywhere else. But the quality of life in London has been greatly reduced by the excessive pressure on its resources.

In my area of Mid-Wales I can point out a high quality of life but in quite a different way from that which exists in London. One thing that the dispersal of civil servants could do is not just to help preserve the high quality of life in the South-East of England but also to improve the high quality of life in the regions. Our civil servants are recruited from among the brightest intelligences of our young people. The Civil Service examinations set a high standard and we cream off the people from the regions, into the professions and into the Civil Service.

What we have done for centuries is to bring such people to the South East and to London. Now we want to reverse that process, not only because of the overburden in London but because we want to improve our country as a whole. The Minister was right to say that this was an early part of the debate on this great issue. I largely subscribe to the attack made by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central upon the Hardman Report. That does not detract from its value but it shows its limitations. The right hon. Gentleman made a valuable contribution to the debate, setting Hardman in a correct context.

The report suffers in particular from two drawbacks. First, it deals with London, an area within a radius of 16 miles of Charing Cross, when it should be dealing with the South-East region in relation to the other regions of the country. That is what we should be concerned about.

Secondly, this debate is academic in a way because the Kilbrandon Commission is about to report, and it may have most revolutionary proposals about the future organisation of government in this country. For example, if the Commission comes out in favour of much greater devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and the regions of England, there will be a completely different attitude towards the Civil Service.

We do not know which Civil Service Departments the Kilbrandon Report will recommend should move to the provinces. Therefore, this debate is only the beginning of a process that will reverse a historical process that has taken centuries. Everything has moved to London, the fulcrum. Gradually we shall move people back, because there is nowhere else that the people of this country can go. The South East is bunged up with people. They cannot go to the colonies as they used to, so they are driven back to their regions. Our attitude towards government and Civil Service is governed by this historical process.

When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the Civil Service approach of the Hardman Report he was right. But 20 years ago it would have been inconceivable for a senior civil servant to write such a report. The Civil Service approach has changed.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the importance of communications—as it were, a face-to-face meeting between thousands of civil servants and the Minister—but that theory has been exploded by a number of hon. Members today.

There is a precedent in our experience. The bulk of civil servants in the Scottish Office are in Edinburgh and the bulk of those in the Welsh Office are in Cardiff. There is a small nucleus of civil servants of both the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office in London.

Often I travel by train from Cardiff and meet some of the senior civil servants coming up in the morning for consultations. This is good for them. They have cross-fertilisation between the provinces and London which can be a precedent for other Departments. Big Departments can be moved out of London and have key civil servants kept here and others coming up for consultations with Ministers. There is no difficulty about that.

We shall see willy-nilly in the next 25 years far greater dispersal than has been contemplated by the report. Events will thrust it upon us. Our historical evolution has reached its apex. When we understand that the wheel has gone full circle and that we are now driven back to development of our own regions, it will be seen that that necessarily involves a great dispersal of civil servants in the next two decades.

6.55 p.m.

Mrs. Connie Monks (Chorley)

A sentence taken from the Government's statement on the Hardman Report says that one of the main criteria which has guided the Government is the desirability of improv- ing the opportunity for office employment outside London, especially so far as is possible in cities within the assisted areas and in new and expanding towns. The central Lancashire new town area consists of three such expanding towns. As the Member for two of them—Chorley and Leyland—I view the report not only as it affects Lancashire as a whole but as it affects the area of the new town in particular. It is a growth area, so decided by both the present Government and the previous Government.

We who live there want to know where this growth is coming from. Growth of population must be accompanied by a growth of varying types of job. An increase of Civil Service jobs would help tremendously in that area, which up to now has been mostly connected with industry. Indeed, the local authorities have been told that new jobs will be created, and nothing could be more suitable than a dispersal into our area of people who work for the Government.

The area is planning various kinds of houses at various prices for sale or to rent, new schools and amenities, sports areas and even golf courses.

The new town is a fresh concept, for it consists of grafting new communities on to three existing ones, all of which have a well-established history. The new communities which will come to form the new town area will be all the more welcome if they bring some of their jobs with them. There have been problems, and there still are, but up to now there has been no real conflict between the people who were already there and the plans that are being made for the people that we hope will come to live in that area.

We were promised by the Government that this massive area, covering three towns and the country surrounding them, would not become merely a dormitory area. We have accepted that assurance in good faith. Some tension is created, understandably, by the promised use of compulsory purchase orders which make it all the more important that any further ill-feeling caused by competition for jobs should be avoided. We must have more jobs in the area. Much of our present employment has an industrial bias. To achieve the balance required we need more white-collar jobs.

In his report Sir Henry Hardman says Although dispersal has a real contribution to make, it is clearly not tailored to the needs of many areas in the way in which, say, companies needing male manual workers tend to be. That may be so, but I submit that it is tailored to fit into the development of the central Lancashire new town, for it has a complete infrastructure, the M6 and M61 motorways, which are well used for travelling to work and for pleasure to the Lake District, Blackpool, Scotland, North Wales and the beautiful moorland and hilly area to the east which is designated as a country park. Fast communication links with London already exist by road, rail and air. Hardman makes an assumption which I am not sure is correct—that dispersal means a loss of efficiency. I do not agree. The absence in our part of the country of a great deal of the physical stress endured in London—and I speak feelingly—caused by overcrowded streets and packed buses and trains would result in greater efficiency and less strain.

I welcome the fact that visits for civil servants to our area have been arranged because many people—even in this place, where we all believe we know a great deal about other people's areas—have a wrong impression of the North. I can assure them that we are quite civilised. We no longer run about in skins and woad, and we would make newcomers, even civil servants, very welcome indeed.

7.1 p.m.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

The problem of economic imbalance between different parts of the country, but especially between the South-East and the northern countryside, remains stubborn. Its origin lies in the steady decline of our basic industries, such as coal mining, steel and wool textiles. Its more obvious features include high unemployment, especially among the young, low wages and a drab environment. Its less well known features include the deterioration of amenities, a relatively small service sector and, ultimately, a loss of population.

All those unattractive features are present in Yorkshire and Humberside. Returns from the Department of Employment consistently show average weekly earnings for men of 21 years of age and over in Yorkshire and Humberside lagging behind all the other regions with the exception, on the latest returns, of the South-West. A year or two ago the average in East Anglia was lower, but never in any other region and certainly in none of the other assisted areas. Yorkshire continues to lag behind them. Thus, low wages as well as relatively poor job opportunities explain Yorkshire's failure to attract newer growth industries to take the place of the jobs lost as the old basic industries of steel, coal and wool textiles continue to contract.

The failure to attract new jobs is especially notable in respect of finance and banking, professional and scientific services, and public administration. Of all the regions, Yorkshire has the lowest relative proportion of civil servants and almost the lowest relative concentration of Crown property by rateable value. New industries would seem to be necessary and not just a better mix of the old. A superficial study reveals the poor representation in the region of those industries which are the main financiers of research expenditure, such as aircraft, electronics and other electrical concerns.

One of the most striking features of Yorkshire is the high proportion of operatives to non-operatives in the labour force. There is no evidence of any lack of talent or of local educational facilities. But there is evidence of a yawning gap between educational achievement and job opportunity, particularly in South Yorkshire and on Humberside, and especially in the coalfield. This is not confined to Yorkshire.

With ever-accelerating technical change a decline in jobs in the extractive and manufacturing industries is taking place throughout Britain. The inevitable job loss must call for a corresponding increase in job opportunities in service industries. This can be brought about through the maintenance and then the increase in the number of mobile decision-taking centres, whether they be company headquarters or Government offices in the region. Such company headquarters or Government offices would provide an increasingly high level of well-paid employment of a service type such as management, finance, design, research, marketing, administration and welfare. These decision-taking centres and the more prosperous workers, in their turn, generate increased demand on service industry of a non-autonomous type.

The Government, by dispersing work from London, and the Hardman Committee, by virtue of its findings, are both well placed to provide precisely this stimulus to the Yorkshire economy. Yet in its recommended and "regional" solutions the Hardman Report proposes that no jobs should go to Yorkshire and Humberside. In its "efficient" solution, 1,600 Board of Inland Revenue jobs are suggested for the region—at Leeds—although I recognise that the committee's terms of reference were confined to the list of 21 locations drawn up by the Government.

Given Yorkshire and Humberside's population and economy, and its intermediate status, the outstanding feature of the report is its neglect of the regions. Appendix 1, Table 1(4), highlights this by relating the percentage of the national population within each region with the percentage of the non-industrial Civil Service within each region. Not unexpectedly, the South-East has the most favourable ratio. Consequently, one would expect all other regions to have less favourable ratios. But the South-West and Northern regions score favourably and Scotland's ratio is close to what one would expect for the non-metropolitan regions. Yorkshire and Humberside's ratio is poor, as is that of the North-West, East Anglia and the East and West Midlands. Appendix 1, Table 1(6), compares the proportion of dispersal work during the period May 1963 to 1st October 1972, including newly established offices, with the proportion of work awaiting dispersal or establishment since 1st October 1972.

Three regions show a rise in their shares of such dispersed or newly-established work—Wales, the South-West, and Scotland. Three regions show a decline in their shares of such work—the North-West, the Northern Region and the South-East. Three more regions show a decline to zero or thereabouts, of which only Yorkshire and Humberside is an assisted area; the others—East Anglia, and the East Midlands—are not assisted. The Yorkshire and Humberside Region has therefore been neglected both before and since 1st October 1972, and the neglect seems certain to continue. By contrast, all other regions which include important tracts of assisted areas have benefited in the past, including Scotland and Wales.

In the debate I have heard my hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite plead, quite rightly, on behalf of their regions—but for what? Have they pleaded for something? No; they have pleaded for more. There is not a region with intermediate or development status which does not have something. I need not cite the prizes which have been given in the last 10 years. My region is the only assisted region which has no prize to show.

Doctor John A. Cunningham (Whitehaven)

And West Cumberland.

Mr. Duffy

I take my hon. Friend's point, and I sympathise.

My reference to the weaknesses in the economy of Yorkshire and Humberside is confirmed in Appendix 5. Employment opportunities for women is a case in point. Paragraph 6 includes a table which shows that such opportunities for women in office work are poorest in Yorkshire and Humberside. The situation is slightly better in Wales and Northern England, and it is interesting to note that the positions of Clydeside, Tyneside, Merseyside and Greater Manchester are as good as or better than the national average. Office employment generally is another case in point. Paragraph 8 firmly places Yorkshire and Humberside among the less fortunate regions, along with Scotland, Wales, Northern England and the South-West. Hardman claims that these proposals will give— a reasonable spread of work between regions", although his recommended solution provides nothing for Yorkshire and Humberside. He claims that since 1963 One significant point is that the bulk of the work is not going to locations in the south. An even more significant point is that since 1963 and, apparently, after 1973, practically no dispersed Government work is going to Yorkshire and Humberside. It is incredible that, following Sir Henry's analysis of the distribution of the non-industrial Civil Service, dispersed work and the receiving locations, the report almost ignores Yorkshire and Humberside—the region with, arguably, the greatest claim for dispersed work on account of its economic condition, and therefore its development status—why, otherwise, does it have it?—and, incidentally, its geographical location.

The Hardman Reports concept of the "region" as a suitable unit of survey is also absurd. Thus, in the report's "efficient" solution it is proposed to locate a number of jobs in Leeds. This has brought the comment that Sir Henry would regard the creation of new work in Leeds as a good contribution to the needs of the Yorkshire and Humberside region for varied employment. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) wonders what good that will do Hull. I ask what good will it do to Sheffield, the coal fields and the whole of South Yorkshire? It might be Leeds's gain but it is certainly not the Bain of South Yorkshire or Humberside. An analysis of some regions would have been far more valuable.

That is why the West Yorkshire County Council has already noted the intention of a delegation from the Ministry to visit it as it is listed as a possible recipient of a share of these jobs. The council intends to invite that delegation. So does the new South Yorkshire County Council, which also intends to send a delegation to London.

At the core of the report's reasoning lies the importance which is attached to the idea that whatever locations for dispersed Government work might eventually be selected they should be few. The report repeatedly makes clear that it is the quality of communications that is of paramount importance.

There must then be an optimum zone for dispersal. I suggest that it is a zone lying roughly 150 to 200 miles from London and including Humberside, South and West Yorkshire, South Lancashire and South-East Wales. I repeat for the benefit of my hon. Friends that I am referring here not necessarily to a desirable or deserving zone but rather to an optimum zone on the basis of Sir Henry's analysis and reasoning. Largely, this is based on two criteria. While fairly distant from London, day return visits to the capital are possible. Moreover, it should preferably be an assisted area. Both those criteria apply to the zone that I have mentioned.

It is clear that South Yorkshire has qualified personnel but lacks the opportunities. It is also clear that the problem will be worse in the future, especially with the rise in the school leaving age and increasing numbers staying on into sixth forms. If South Yorkshire does not get office employment there will be a steady migration of young people out of the country, as has already taken place in Humberside. Although parts of South Yorkshire, from Sheffield right through to Humberside—notably Doncaster—will soon represent the hub of road and rail communications in England and be less than two hours by rail from London, seemingly there is nothing for them at all from Hardman.

Finally, the towns in South Yorkshire—Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Goole—and beyond to Humberside all have low cost office developments in the pipeline which can accommodate a relocated Government Department or one or more of its parts.

7.14 p.m.

Mr. Robert Hicks (Bodmin)

It is not often that the Government have the opportunity to lead by example in furthering regional development policies. Normally in the House we are concerned in this context with discussing techniques by which the regions themselves can make themselves more attractive or, alternatively, discussing the various methods of inducement to encourage industries and other employers of labour to move into the regions. This occasion is a unique opportunity for the Government to seize to prove to the country and all sections of economic activity that they are repeatedly trying to coerce to go into the regions that the Government mean business.

Ministers have recognised that the regional aspect is one of the two main criteria forming the basis of the report, the other one being the efficiency of the operation of the Government Department. I acknowledge that balancing these two considerations will not be an easy exercise, as the Hardman analysis shows and subsequent comment has confirmed. I, too, was disappointed by the absolute number of civil servants recommended for dispersal and by the suggested geographical distribution of those who are recommended for dispersal. It is on this latter facet that I wish to concentrate.

I readily appreciate that however desirable it might be from the regional point of view to have a large number of local concentrations it probably is not practical, nor does it make for efficient administration, to have hived-off sections of Government Departments just to meet the regional requirement. This inherent problem is particularly pertinent in the region I represent. Apart from Plymouth the far South-West contains no large centres of population. It thus follows that if the south-west development area is to benefit from Government office dispersal a candidate would have to be found that was mobile, self-contained and of modest dimensions.

My researches into the Hardman Report show that there is possibly one candidate, namely, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which could be located in a typical Cornish Market town environment within the south-west development area. The Minister is aware that I have two specific locations in mind, namely, Bodmin and Liskeard. He is receiving a delegation from these two towns, which will put individual and local claims, so I take this opportunity to concentrate my remarks on the more general arguments why I think it desirable that the Government should take the bold decision to establish this specific section of the Home Office in the south-west development area and in South-East Cornwall in particular. There are six reasons.

First, the south-west development area in which my constituency falls is the only development area which would not receive any Government offices if the Hardman recommendations were implemented. The south-west development area does not contain any major centres of population, as I have already said. If the recommended concept of Hardman is accepted, the basis of dispersal will be confined to a limited number of locations throughout the United Kingdom, which would seem to rule out the possibility of any town in the far South-West—in Cornwall—being considered.

Although the south-west development area is largely rural, with only scattered industrial development, it does not follow that the area's problems and difficulties are any less than those of other assisted areas whose problems tend to be associated with their urban and industrial heritages. When the regional problem in this country was at its height 12 to 18 months ago the south-west development area had the second highest unemployment percentage figure of all the United Kingdom development areas.

Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)

What about now?

Mr. Hicks

I will come to that in a moment.

In addition, according to the Inland Revenue statistics, the south-west development area has at present the second lowest average in income levels of all development areas. This latter aspect forms my second reason for advocating Government office dispersal to the South-West, namely, the need to improve job quality opportunities in Cornwall. I mentioned earlier the high level of unemployment which was prevalent in 1972. Fortunately this has improved significantly owing to the upturn in the economy nationally, the effectiveness of regional development policies and overall improvements in communications, linking our area with the rest of the country. In other words, we have gone a long way towards solving the job quantity problem but the lack of job quality opportunities remains.

I wish to emphasise to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that this facet can only be remedied, or can be most easily remedied, when the economy is expanding and buoyant. It is unlikely to be solved when the economy is sluggish or stagnating, when one tends to concentrate on the number of people without work rather than on the quality of the jobs to be provided. The job opportunities which would be introduced as a consequence of bringing a small section of a Government Department to Cornwall would be very real in local terms and would play a significant part in enhancing the local economy through an increase in the amount of money which would be in circulation.

The staff of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board contains approximately 45 persons of executive grade or above. In the context of south-East Cornwall their presence would have a most desirable social and economic effect.

The third reason why I am anxious for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to be moved to Cornwall is that only 14.1 per cent. of the jobs in Cornwall are in office occupations, which compares badly with a national average of 24 or 25 per cent. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board employs 54 persons in clerical, typing or other supporting roles and the introduction of these posts into my area would be valuable in solving a key problem of the loss of our young people through population migration and would also help solve the problem presented by a low proportion of our women and girls being in jobs which offer a career structure. The Government recently introduced a scheme offering financial incentives to office undertakings to move to the assisted areas. Surely this is now an excellent opportunity for the Government to set an example in respect of the south-west development area?

The Hardman Report, by recommending that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board should be moved from London, has accepted in principle the fact that this section of Government can be located in a peripheral region. There seems no reason why the board cannot be moved to East Cornwall; Liskeard and Bodmin are both served by main line railways and are 25 minutes and 35 minutes, respectively, from Plymouth. There are regular through trains and there is now an air service linking the South-West with London. Therefore, I believe that the arguments in the report as to why the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board has to be located with the rest of the Home Office in Plymouth are not valid.

Furthermore, if the Minister thinks that west of Plymouth represents the back of beyond, I remind him that at St. Austell there is sited the administrative headquarters of one of the larger United Kingdom companies—English China Clays. It would follow that if a major company can site its headquarters in a Cornish town a small section of Government can also be located there.

Both the Hardman Report and the Minister have made the point that it is necessary to limit the number of centres for dispersal and that it is not advisable to fragment Departments—hence the choice of Plymouth as the Home Office centre. But I do not believe that if the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board were hived off from its parent body and located further west there would be any loss of efficiency, that it would be detrimental to the career structures of the personnel concerned, or that there would be any other disadvantages. If the board were located in Plymouth many of the staff would probably live in South-East Cornwall in any case, and would choose to travel to work in Plymouth. I do not, therefore, see why the staff could not travel from any of those desirable Cornish villages, such as Looe or Polperro, to Bad-min or Liskeard rather than to Plymouth.

My final point concerns staff. I can think of no better part of the United Kingdom than the South-West for this section of the Home Office to be located, for the staff to live in and to bring up and educate their families. I hope that the Government will look very closely at the case for this section of the Home Office being moved to Liskeard or Bodmin because I believe that the resource gain to our area would not only be very significant but would be achieved without loss in administrative efficiency.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)

I promise to be as brief as most of the other speakers. I greatly welcome today's news from the Minister about Milton Keynes. To have earmarked over one third of the 31,400 or so jobs recommended for dispersal to Milton Keynes would have been complete nonsense and a cruel deception to the people in the regions who built up so much hope of this report.

While listening to the Minister, particularly towards the end of his speech, I became hopeful that, as he had mentioned almost every other new town in the country—

Mr. Dormand

Not Peterlee.

Mr. McGuire

My hon. Friend does not agree with me. I take it that Peter-lee has high unemployment, like my own new town of Skelmersdale. I thought that the Minister was saving the juicy bits for me for the end and was going to announce that the 6,000 or so jobs earmarked for Milton Keynes and which will be reconsidered—10,000 were recommended and then reduced to 4,000— would go to Skelmersdale. Skelmersdale has a very great need. The Government cannot plan new towns in isolation. If the Government will the end they must will the means. After all a new town is supposed to be a model, and a Government have to plan for houses, transport, education, recreation, social and medical services, and jobs.

The medical services seem to be treated as badly in regard to this planning as the jobs. The new hospital, which was very much on the cards, has been delayed. We do not know for how long. This is causing bitter resentment in the town and a further loss of job opportunities.

One of the needs of any new town is a balanced work force. Today, too large a proportion of our people are employed in unskilled repetitive jobs. In Skelmersdale the schools are generally very good. We are churning out for the new town boys and girls who are well equipped for the type of work which could have come to them if the report had paid more attention, as it should have done, to the needs of the region.

I am making a case for my region. We need a balanced work force. We were hoping for some comfort from this report. Skelmersdale has the highest level of unemployment of the Lancashire new towns. The level is disguised because for statistical purposes we are linked with the old-established town of Ormskirk, and there is an imbalance. The combined figure reduces the real figure in Skelmersdale. Although the figure has been dropping, it is still far too high.

Some new towns are earmarked in the report for a colossal number of jobs, but Skelmersdale has not been earmarked for one of them.

The report is only a recommendation. The Government ought to have a rethink if they take seriously, as they say that they do, the problems of the regions, particularly Merseyside, of which Skelmersdale is a part. If one creates big job opportunities in Merseyside, Skelmersdale or South-West Lancashire there is an overspill effect, and people can travel what in London would be a relatively small distance. There would be a gain to the region in that way. Speaking for my new town and my constituency, I hope that the Government will rethink the report. I hope that they will not only abandon the giving of a colossal number of jobs to Milton Keynes, which the deputation proved that it did not want and could not provide for, but will also consider the needs of South-West Lancashire and Skelmersdale in particular.

The Minister has stated that one should not further sub-divide Departments. He mentioned the department which already exists at Norwich, for which a further number of jobs has been earmarked. The Minister said that sub-division would destroy the efficaciousness of the transfer. He said that one should not transfer bits and bobs but should try to preserve the efficiency of big Departments. The Minister said that if a town had already received 1,000 jobs and if another 700 jobs were earmarked, the logical thing would be to send them to the town which already had the Department. In the report, however, sub-divisions are already recommended. For example, the Department of Health and Social Security is mainly concentrated in Newcastle, yet there is a recommendation that the central Lancashire new town should get almost 1,000 jobs in this branch of Government service. I cannot see the logic of that.

I ask the Minister to have another look at the needs of my new town and of South-West Lancashire in particular. Unless the Government have a serious rethink on this matter they will be mouthing platitudes from the Dispatch Box whenever they speak about the needs of the regions, and this report will have been a waste of time.

7.35 p.m.

Mr. Edward Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department will be very glad that while the Hardman Report has been greatly criticised today, Sir Henry seems to have restored to the House of Commons not only a sense of national unity but a sense of great optimism and hope. Whereas in the past hon. Members have been complaining about their constituents suffering from inadequate housing, inadequate education, soaring house prices and appalling land values, with speculators forcing up office rents and so on, it seems that Britain consists now of a series of regions where we have splendid educational opportunities, cheap housing and, of course, low rents.

This is a very satisfactory situation, for which we should be grateful to Sir Henry Hardman. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, in particular, will have been very interested to read in the splendid document produced by Glasgow and district that among the attributes of Glasgow under education is the fact that there is a substantial number of independent fee-paying schools, including Glasgow Academy and Kelvinside. In that respect Sir Henry has achieved a great deal, if in no other.

The important issue, and the only issue which should be considered by the Government, apart from regional development, is that of efficiency. I have always thought that there was a great argument for a major dispersal of Government jobs and jobs in the nationalised industries for the sake of efficiency. It is a splendid thing that for the first time in years we are facing up to what will be a very major dispersal.

It is generally accepted, particularly on the basis of the speeches which have been made, that efficiency does not exist in many Government Departments in London today simply because there is a desperate shortage of staff, especially in the clerical and administrative grades. There is also the problem of a very high turnover of labour and, apart from that, the problem of travelling to work. Taking all these things into account, and apart from the problem of office accommodation, it must be accepted that we do not have a situation of total efficiency in London headquarters at present.

On the other hand, it would be folly for those who support the regional case to pretend that there will not be major problems if we have a dispersal. The important thing is to identify these problems and to see how they can be overcome.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and other hon. Members, have had the opportunity for a considerable time of taking part in an Administration in which the Scottish Office is in Edinburgh and the Secretary of State is in London. This brings me directly to the important question which is put time and again in the Hardman Report, namely the importance of face-to-face contacts. A closer study of the need for face-to-face contacts would lead to the conclusion that while there is definitely a need for such contact in many situations, there is not a need in the majority of cases for urgent face-to-face contacts.

Most meetings between civil servants and between civil servants and Ministers are not meetings which are called at five or 10 minutes' notice. They are meetings for which preparations are made. So long as the Departments or the decision makers are in a physical situation enabling them to travel to London and back within one day and to do a full day's work in between, the case for most of the regions can be made on the grounds of efficiency and of overcoming the problems of face-to-face contact.

On this basis many areas could qualify for consideration for the major dispersals under the Hardman Report. For example, many areas would benefit from an improvement in the social structure. Many areas of Great Britain have the advantage of office rents which are lower than those of London. However, there are certain special features of the Glasgow situation which I hope the Minister will bear very much in mind when detailed consideration is given to the future of the Ministry of Defence.

Obviously it is important for a major office of this sort to have access to a long-term supply of labour. Scotland is one of the few areas with a high number of successful applicants for Civil Service examinations who cannot obtain a job near the vicinity in which they live. Figures given to me in the House show that in the last examinations in the executive grade there were 800 successful applicants in Scotland of whom only 300 were able to find a post in Scotland. It is obvious that there is a built-in potential of Civil Service manpower.

The general question of education is also important. Figures published by the Department of Education and Science show that whereas in Britain generally about 37 people in every thousand are university graduates, in Scotland the figure is 42 per thousand. The tragedy for Scotland has been that many of these people have had to move elsewhere to get a job appropriate to their qualifications.

On the available labour supply, an active labour force is also significant. Assuming that the Common Market is here to stay, it is crystal clear that the great danger for the West of Scotland is that it will become the West Virginia of the Common Market, lacking the great attractions of being near the centre of the Market. Anything which can brighten the future for the West of Scotland is for the good of Scotland as a whole

I was most grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for coming to Scotland to meet businessmen whom we gathered together with the Lord Provost so that he could be told personally of the ways in which these men had overcome the problems of dispersal. It is nonsense to pretend that if the offices simply move to Glasgow, Teesside or Merseyside the problems will be solved. But it was helpful for the Minister to have an opportunity of hearing for himself from big international companies such as Weirs, Collins, and Coats Paton how they had overcome the problem of centralising their activities in the West of Scotland and the benefits to be obtained from that.

I hope we can have an assurance from my right hon. Friend who is to wind up the debate that before a firm decision is made on the future of the giant Ministry of Defence office at least one Minister of Defence will take the opportunity of coming to the West of Scotland and of speaking to those who have dealt with the Ministry and with those who have overcome the problems which come with dispersal. From what has been said so far it is clear that the Government have an open mind. I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to Glasgow's problems and the opportunities offered by a move to Glasgow.

7.43 p.m.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

I do not propose to take up the points raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) at this stage but I am sure that we have just heard what must be one of the most moderate speeches he has made in the House.

I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) that in the absence of the Kilbrandon Report the debate is taking place in something of a vacuum. However, we must proceed on the basis of the position as we know it. I shall not spend too much time on the Hardman Report, which has been scathingly criticised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne,-Central (Mr. Edward Short). However, I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without expressing the strong resentment felt in Scotland at the statement at the end of paragraph 14 on page 197 that The existence of Scotland is … irrelevant in the context of the efficient operation of the national Government". While no man or part of a nation can be considered indispensable, Scotland makes a considerable contribution to the efficient operation of national Government in Britain and I am pleased to see the Secretary of State for Scotland here because he will substantiate that statement.

I also refer at this point to page 13 of the report where in paragraph 31 it says, referring to Glasgow: This is the city in the list approved by Ministers which is most distant from London. This distance does constrain the amount of work which can be dispersed with tolerable loss of efficiency Was such a list prepared by the Government and if so was Glasgow the only place in Scotland to appear on the list? If that is the case this debate is a travesty of justice.

I accept that the Government have decided on the dispersal of Civil Service Departments, albeit of an insufficient number. I certainly welcome the Parliamentary Secretary's statement about jobs going to Cardiff and Washington. I only hoped that he would be in a position to announce an equal or an even larger number which were coming to Scotland, particularly to my area. My purpose tonight therefore is to reinforce the claim to a substantial share of the available jobs which I and a deputation from Kirkcaldy made to the Minister some time ago. Tonight, however, I am speaking not for a population of 50,000 but for the population of the county of Fife which numbers over 327,000.

Recently the Minister met a deputation from Dunfermline lead by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Adam Hunter) Now all the authorities in the country are making a special joint plea, recognising that whichever part of the county is allocated a share of the jobs being dispersed, the dispersal will eventually help the prosperity of all. Some of the civil servants visited this area of the county a week or so ago and were most impressed with what they saw, and they saw but a small part of the opportunities available.

It is also necessary to voice the need for Civil Service jobs for Fife in view of the highly publicised efforts and pressure on the Government by the Glasgow Corporation. I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Cathcart has left the Chamber. I had hoped he would be present when I dealt with the point. I will not enter into the merits of Glasgow's case but the Minister must realise that the city is requesting the Government to disperse jobs from the largest conurbation in England to the largest conurbation in Scotland. Surely that is not in accord with good planning practice.

For many years various Governments have been subsidising housing for overspill population from Glasgow. In view of these facts the case for Fife must receive the most careful appraisal by the Minister in deciding where in Scotland it would be most beneficial to site the dispersed Government Departments. He must also keep in mind the needs and desires of the key civil servants who would be involved in such transfers if the well-being of the Departments and the individuals concerned are to be safeguarded.

The case for Fife is that there is a need to counteract the present as well as the anticipated future imbalance in certain urban areas of the county caused by the shortage of clerical and administrative posts and the present and probable future demand for employment in that category.

Secondly, the capacity and variety of the existing house building programme in Fife and those planned for the future with the county's community and welfare support services is sufficiently flexible to accommodate the needs of incoming personnel on the scale which would be required. Thirdly, with the advantage of a pleasant environment in which to live and work, Fife is an area which caters for the widest possible variety of social and recreational interests.

The shortage of clerical and administrative employment is particularly acute in Central and West Fife, where 61 per cent. of school leavers with Scottish Education Certificates are unemployed. In his statement the Minister referred to Glasgow and Plymouth among others, giving me the impression that Glasgow is the only place in Scotland that is worth taking into account. As a result of this high percentage of unemployment in that area of Fife, a significant number of people are compelled to commute daily to Edinburgh.

Mr. Galbraith

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House how long it takes to commute from Dunfermline to Edinburgh?

Mr. Gourlay

About half-an-hour depending on the services. By train it is probably even longer. But the point which the hon. Gentleman has made brings me back again to page 13 of the report where, at the end of paragraph 31—and if I may underline this, it indicates how Sir Henry Hardman failed to comprehend the difficulties or to understand the position in Scotland—one reads: If no work is to go to Glasgow from London, the most sensible course would be to consider the dispersal to Glasgow of parts of the Scottish Office from Edinburgh. In effect, that would mean taking jobs away from Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline. So I am sure that the Minister, with his knowledge gained from the deputations that he has received, plus what he has learned from the Civil Service, will never contemplate adopting that part of the Hardman Report. The introduction of clerical and administrative employment would help to counteract this weakness.

To train labour, Fife already has six well-equipped technical colleges. Courses are naturally geared to serve the needs of local industry, and new specialist courses are added as the demand arises. We are naturally proud of St. Andrews University—the oldest one in Scotland—and Fife has the added advantage of nearness to the Universities of Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling and Heriot-Watt (Edinburgh), together with its own technical colleges and schools. In general terms, therefore, the local authorities in the county have been most energetic in their post-war building programmes which have virtually cleared Fife of substandard housing.

In response to the demand for private houses, which has escalated considerably in the last few years, the rate of private house-building has substantially increased and in Kirkcaldy alone it has trebled. A new three-apartment semidetached house with central heating costs in the region of £7,500, which is virtually 50 per cent. of the cost of buying a similar house in the South-East of England.

As a place to live, the county offers many attractions with major shopping centres throughout, to say nothing of the wide variety of social interests, sports and recreations which are available. It is possibly overstating the case to mention the "Old Course" at St. Andrews, one of 30 courses in the county, membership of some of which can be as low as £6 per annum. There is also sailing and water skiing, gliding at Portmoak and walking in the Lomond Hills.

With regard to the location of Civil Service establishments, I would say that in the light of the distribution pattern of those areas of the county in which the demand for clerical and administrative employment presents itself, and in view of the potential of the county to support a growth of employment in this category, a number of locations in Fife emerge as being well suited to absorb this type of employment.

Finally, there are good road communications within the county which, with the coming East Fife regional road—and the Under-Secretary is present to hear me refer to that—will provide fast transport facilities between the main towns in the area. The railway system provides a direct link with Edinburgh and London. With regard to air travel, the main centres in Fife are within 30 to 35 minutes of Edinburgh airport from which there are regular flights to all major centres in Britain. Fife is, in fact, within a daily return journey of London, allowing reasonable time for business between the outgoing and return flights.

Contrary to the general belief here in the South, the climate in Fife is more than comparable with that of Kent.—[Laughter.] That is not mere supposition, as one might think from the laughter behind me, but is based on a factual survey spread over a number of years of weather statistics. I therefore confidently appeal to the Minister to heed the claims of Fife among the many that he will have to consider. He will never regret a decision to disperse one or more of his Departments to one of the neediest and most beautiful areas of the country. I found the Minister a little disappointing today, but he still has plenty of time to redeem himself.

7.55 p.m.

Sir John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

The speech of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay) merely stresses what we have heard from both sides of the House throughout the debate, that we should all like to see more civil servants coming from the South into our constituencies or areas.

I thought that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department made an admirable opening speech, and I wish him luck with the CBI and the TUC over the Manpower Services Commission. I accept that the Government have a very difficult decision to make, but when one considers that there are 143,710 non-industrial civil servants working in London—which is denned as within 16 miles radius of Charing Cross—including Caterham, Dartford, Uxbridge and Watford, and, more especially, that in the whole of the rich South East there are no fewer than 225,400 non-industrial civil servants, it seems that the 31,000-odd who will be dispersed is a very small figure indeed. I only hope that in due course the Government will consider increasing that number well away from the rich South and South East.

I do not believe it is any good sprinkling jobs with a few hundred here and a few hundred there. For there to be the maximum effect, there must be a massive injection in certain areas. I am not making a special claim for Merseyside, although I believe that we have one of the biggest potential claims of any industrial and development area in this country, because the same argument must apply to other development areas. But instead of adding a few hundred what would make an enormous difference to those areas where unemployment is endemic is a really massive influx of the Civil Service. I therefore welcome the decision of my hon. Friend to cut down the suggested number of 10,000 going to Milton Keynes to a much more reasonable figure.

Will he also look at the accounts of the Naval section at Bath? So far as I can see, there is really no reason why that section should be there. There is a much smaller section in Liverpool, so why not move them up from the comparatively full employment of Bath? Of course, civil servants would love to live in Bath and have all the civilised amenities of modern life. But we can produce quite a lot of those on Merseyside. We have what is possibly the best picture gallery outside London and Edinburgh, and we have splendid music. I agree that we can improve our amenities, especially if we reclaim the Dee and have all sorts of sailing, boating, and so on. That is why I have always believed that priority in public works should go to development areas and not to the rich South East. We also have very much cheaper houses.

When he winds up the debate, will my right hon. Friend say something about bridging loans on mortgages for civil servants when they buy a house in the North? I may have been misinformed, but I have been told that there is a limit to the mortgage given for industrial cities as against new towns, and this seems to me quite an important matter when civil servants are deciding whether to go North. Speaking for the North West as a whole, one welcomes the fact that 20 per cent. of the 31,000 are coming to the North West, but we now have a lower proportion than Wales, Scotland or the Northern Region of England.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that not only should the aim be to reduce unemployment in the older industrial areas but there are five other points which are worth considering—first, the necessity to stem the outflow of well qualified young people from those areas. Secondly, full career opportunities should be provided in all regions, reducing the penalty paid by personnel who must move to the South East later on when they get promotion. Thirdly, we should encourage dispersal from the private sector, including those organisations which feel they have close links with Government Departments. I see no reason why the Government should not urge some private offices to follow the example of one of the major banks and move their headquarters, or their rear headquarters, to the North.

Fourth, opportunities should be created for improving investment in commercial buildings and special infrastructure. In Liverpool we have a lot of new vacant office buildings, but this does not apply in all development areas. We have in Liverpool much first-class office accommodation which is vacant at a tenth of the rent in London. Last, we should reduce the pressure on resources in the South East and ensure that resources in other parts of the country are fully utilised to the national advantage. One welcomes the policy of complete change in the history of movement of the Civil Service. Long term, I hope that some of the European Economic Community's offices will be established in this country, and perhaps my hon. Friend will tell us what plans there are for this.

We have on Merseyside first-class white-collar workers, and yet on Merseyside there has been a decline in decision-making, especially in private industry which has moved its headquarters to London or to Germany or even to the United States of America. I do not believe this is good for Merseyside, and as 150 years ago we brought in the new world to put right the troubles of the old, I hope we can now bring in the public sector to bring back some of the decision-making which the private sector of Merseyside has in some measure cut off.

Will my hon. Friend remember that there are 2 million people within 16 miles of Merseyside, and the North Wales problem ties in very much with this, as my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) pointed out. Will my hon. Friend also bear in mind that the eventual decisions have got to be made by the Government? The Government must relate their final choice to their regional policy. One welcomes the historic change, and I only hope that the civil servants do likewise.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I share the anxiety and concern which have been expressed about the Hardman Report. I do not go so far as to condemn what the report intended to do, nor do I share in the criticism that has been made of Sir Henry Hardman. He has fulfilled the terms of reference which he was given. Possibly a criticism could be laid against him in that he has not taken the opportunity to uprate and update his report or his recommendations. Perhaps this responsibility should be shared by those who gave him the terms of reference.

I particularly do not agree with the criteria that have been used in the "recommended", "efficient" or "regional" solutions. Under any one of those headings the recommendations would fail. If there were a permutation of any two of the three, the failure, to a degree, would be even greater.

Merseyside has had quite a loud voice in this debate, and I am aware that there are other regions whose representatives wish to express their points of view and, indeed, like many of us, deliver constituency speeches. Nevertheless, I ask hon. Members to bear with me since, being a regional Whip, I do not very often stand on my feet and speak.

A number of factors have already been introduced in the debate by my Mersey-side parliamentary colleagues and there is no need for me to repeat the points that they have made. I should, however, like to raise two matters, referring to what the Parliamentary Secretary said about the Manpower Services Commission being situated on the Merseyside. I hope he will not take too much account of what the organisations have said to him in terms of an hour and a half's journey from London. He ought to tell them that more often than not there is an hour and a half's journey within London for people to get from where they live to a manpower unit. To those who claim to represent the working population as an organisation the Minister may gently point out that they themselves have responsibility for representing the needs of those would-be workers on the Merseyside. I pass no comments about the CBI. I am not knowledgeable of its idiosyncrasies.

With regard to the evidence submitted about the supportive facilities and services, there is one subject which has been raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Sir John Tilney) to which I should like to refer, and that is the ques- tion of mortgage bridging loans required by dispersed civil servants. I seem to recall that a ceiling has been fixed on local government mortgage schemes. I believe that that ceiling is unrealistic in terms of present-day prices. If, indeed, there are a number of dispersals into these regions the Government might reconsider uprating the ceiling which is now imposed on local government mortgage schemes. If this is done, some of the regions may be more attractive to civil servants who might otherwise feel reluctant to go there.

I shall mention briefly four headings. Evidence has already been submitted by deputations which have come to Merseyside. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell), I hope to participate in a reappraisal of the situation. The location of more Civil Service departments on the Merseyside would have the advantage of revitalising employment opportunities in the office sector in the conurbation. We have from time to time found grave difficulty in retaining employment. The nationalised industries have from time to time inflicted grievous blows on that sector of employment, not least recently the Railways Board. There is this propensity to fix a citadel in a region and to believe that that is the be-all and end-all of all that should be transferred. It is much broader than that, and I hope the Minister will take that fact into account.

The second point is that decentralisation of the Civil Service would, no doubt, help to correct an imbalance in the employment opportunities and in the structure within the region. As Merseyside is a very distinctive and significant part of the country serving the wealth of the hinterland, I believe that we should have the opportunity to recreate that structure. Relocation would also help to compensate for the employment opportunities which we have lost and the many which have been withdrawn from the area.

I say with absolute truth that since I have been a Member of Parliament, which is nine years today—some hon. Members may think that that is too long and others may think it is not long enough—my preoccupation has been fighting to retain the employment which already exists in Merseyside. I admit that on more than one occasion I have been unsuccessful. I have been unsuccessful to the degree that the departure of employment opportunities from Merseyside has been significant. That must be taken into account when the Government reappraise the recommendations of the Hardman Report.

Merseyside has considerable advantages to offer to the location of Civil Service employment office opportunities in the area. It is a port and it has been a commercial centre. It has the necessary facilities and amenities. It has a number of educational units which have more than adequately prepared its youngsters to undertake the opportunities that relocation would give.

Merseyside can offer much more than that. I do not intend to open a "Why don't you come for a holiday to Merseyside" brochure. I do not advise anybody to do that. However, if people wish to work with us and to create a better infrastructure for the region, I am sure that they will find us not wanting in the things which they might require as encouragement for them to disperse.

Adequate office accommodation is already available. That accommodation is waiting for tenants. It is up to the Government to consider the matter intently. I reserve the right to go into the matter in more detail when, as I hope, the Minister receives the deputation from Merseyside.

8.13 p.m.

Mr. Michael Roberts (Cardiff, North)

I warmly welcome the two announcements about the dispersal of civil servants made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department. I particularly welcome the announcement that the company registration office of the DTI is to be located in Maindy Barracks, Cardiff. That is especially welcome, as we were assured that it would not preclude the possibility of further dispersal to the Cardiff area. I was not surprised about that announcement because the Hardman Report discovered, when it considered the most efficient solution to the problem of dispersal that Cardiff was a suitable location. In a table setting out the most efficient solution 6,142 jobs were allocated to the Cardiff area.

The Hardman Report has been criticised because too much emphasis has been placed on the need for face-to-face contact between the civil servants dispersed to new locations and the civil servants and Ministers in London.

At one stage it appeared that people were arguing that it was a positive advantage to be further away from London, and the further away the better. That impression did not last for long because each person who argued that it did not matter how far he was away from London soon proved that it was possible to drive or fly or travel by rail and to arrive in London in record time.

It is of great importance to be able to have a swift movement of civil servants to London from the locations selected for dispersal. That is a positive advantage which the Cardiff and South Wales area has to a great extent. For example, I left my home in North Cardiff today at five minutes to 12 and after one short stop I drew my car into the House of Commons yard at 2.30 this afternoon. If I had chosen to come by rail I should have completed the journey in two hours 10 minutes. It is true that that would have involved a quick taxi from Paddington, which would take a further ten minutes.

In two years the high-speed train will be running on the Cardiff-Paddington line. That will reduce the Cardiff-to-London journey to 1¾ hours. Communications are not only excellent to the capital city of London; from the capital city of Cardiff there are excellent communications to the Midlands, the North and other regional centres.

I accept, too, the second criterion of the Hardman Report for the selected area, namely, that staff can be recruited locally and that existing and potential office accommodation is available. For many years Cardiff has made preparations for becoming a major office and administrative centre. There are ample facilities for further development. The criterion of the recruitment of suitable staff again puts Cardiff and the whole of South Wales in a strong position. Cardiff has a population of 300,000 people and the area closely connected to it, which has excellent communications, has a population of over one million people.

One of the characteristics of the area to which I have referred is that a great tradition has been established for education. I need not remind the House that Wales established a system of secondary education several years before it was established in England. Wales has a higher GCE pass rate than practically any area in England and Wales. It is second only to southern England. Therefore, it can provide a background of education and the facilities for education which will be essential for the establishment of the Civil Service Departments which are required in the area.

Cardiff has three university colleges. Only a few miles up the road there is a strong polytechnic. There are colleges of technology, food and commerce, and commercial schools in the city. Another advantage which Cardiff clearly has is that it can provide many of the staff which will obviously be required—namely, women. The average proportion of women in employment is 30.6 per cent. in Wales compared with 43.6 per cent. in London. Therefore, there is a valuable source of potential recruitment and a source which is well endowed with good educational qualifications.

The third Hardman criterion is the attractiveness of the location to the staff. I shall not dwell on the many excellences of the South Wales and Cardiff area. As our communications are so good, the civil servants dispersed to the Cardiff area will have a choice of residence between the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan, the villages of Monmouthshire, the capital city of Cardiff and the many market towns in the area. We can assure those who come that they will be coming to an area with a good environment and good amenities.

It was something of a disappointment to read the Hardman Report and see that although, on the basis of efficiency, the area should have 6,142 jobs, it was recommended that we should have 5,542 jobs. I should have thought that our original case was such that it would have enhanced the argument for jobs rather than detracted from the number of jobs recommended. We do not accept that 5,000 is about the limit with which the South Wales area can cope. That area includes not only Cardiff but the neighbouring towns. The capacity is much greater because of the population in the immediate vicinity of the capital city.

We have noted with great interest that the original table suggests that part of the Ministry of Defence should be allocated to the Cardiff area. That is interesting in view of the withdrawal of Milton Keynes.

I should like the House to look carefully at the argument put by the Ministry of Defence that so many of its establishments are in the South and South-West that it would prefer a dispersal to take place in that area, which it describes as the London-Bath axis. Cardiff is not directly on that axis, but an hour's car journey—less if I am driving—would bring Bath and Cardiff into close proximity with London. If the Ministry of Defence is to be dispersed, I suggest that if it came to Cardiff it would be adequately placed and very warmly welcomed.

8.20 p.m.

Dr. John A. Cunningham (Whitehaven)

I hope the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) will forgive me if I do not follow him but leave the arguments about Wales to my right hon. and hon. Friends from the Principality. I want to speak on two levels—first, about the Hardman Report itself as a document in the context of regional policy and, secondly, to put a specific proposal to the Minister about my constituency.

As a document concerned with regional policy, Hardman is at best disappointing and at worst almost irrelevant and the inadequacies and inaccuracies were highlighted in the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short). It is odd that Hardman should actually propose in the context of his dispersal argument a regional solution as opposed to some other kind of solution. This immediately highlights his thinking on regional policy. Indeed, the whole attitude, which suggests that there can be a regional solution as opposed to any other kind of solution in a dispersal argument, betrays Hardman's thoughts.

We ought to be saying, if we believe in regionalism, that the regional solution and the national solution are one and the same. Many of us on this side of the House have argued in that way for a number of years and I have been very pleased, not to say surprised, at the number of hon. Members from many areas of the United Kingdom who this evening have suddenly recognised the merits of our argument—only many other regions seem to have appeared in the process and, incidentally, a few of British Railway's track records have been broken tonight.

I am most concerned about the argument in regional terms on the ground that it is important to recognise that dispersal to the regions such as the North or Scotland or Wales will not only be of benefit there but would be of great benefit to London and the South East. Although this point has been made, it needs to be re-emphasised. It is not simply a selfish regional attitude on our part to say it. We genuinely believe that dispersal of this kind will make a very definite contribution to ending some of the chaos we are all so familiar with in London, not only in terms of congestion but in terms of too few people chasing far too many jobs. This has a tremendously bad effect on the social structure in the South East itself, let alone by causing drift from the other regions.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, North mentioned face-to-face confrontation. Having heard civil servants often described as faceless men, it would be interesting to observe the face-to-face of the faceless men which seems to be so important in the governing of the country and the decision-making process. I find that this is a complete non-argument. Of all the arguments which have been proposed against a larger dispersal, this one is the worst. To suggest, with the development of modern communications and, indeed, surface transport improvements, that main decisions have to be always taken by people in a face-to-face situation is nonsense.

I turn to the specific proposal which I put to the Minister about my own constituency. I have heard many hon. Members say that their region or county or town has been ignored in the course not only of what Hardman has written but of what the Minister has said. None has been more ignored than West Cumberland in this argument. We do not as a county or as the region of a county merit a single word in the report. We sneak into one or two other documents only in the sense that the North of England Development Council, in mentioning a proposal about West Cumberland, actually suggests that if an establishment does not go to West Cumberland it should go to the North East. This is a rather unfortunate way to get into anyone's recommendations.

The Parliamentary Secretary knows that many of us in West Cumberland have put a specific suggestion to him that the office which could be moved would not be an office at all but a laboratory—the laboratory of the Government Chemist. Here I pay tribute to Mr. Albert Taylor, the technical director of the Marchon division of Albright and Wilson in my constituency, who, together with other industrialists and the mayors and chairmen of local authorities, has worked very hard in putting this view to the Minister and his colleagues.

We picked on a specific proposal, unlike many others in the debate, for several reasons. We admit at once that West Cumberland could not begin to accommodate a major Government Department. It would be nonsense to suggest otherwise. In a sense, we are in a good position because to my knowledge, although Hardman recommends that the laboratory should be dispersed to that well-known place up the Edgware Road which has been referred to so often, no one else has yet staked a claim to it. Perhaps Teddington does not want it. I hope that is the case.

We feel that this establishment of about 360 jobs can be accommodated in West Cumberland not only in terms of the social structure of the area but also in industrial and educational terms. Many people do not realise that one of the largest and best-equipped laboratories in the British Isles is sited in the Windscale-Calder Hall atomic power complex. The steel and chemical industries have laboraties in West Cumberland and so there is a really feasible argument for saying that the laboratory of the Government Chemist would be able to exchange ideas and personnel and to co-operate and coexist with existing scientific establishments in the area.

On that basis—on the criteria of size and of being able to accommodate it in the area as a whole—we have a pretty strong case. We also have a strong case in the more general terms of saying that there is not a single Government establishment of any size anywhere, either in the existing county of Cumberland or the much larger new county of Cumbria, which comes into administrative control in 1974.

We put this specifically to the Minister. I hope he will receive a deputation. I know he has been asked to do so. I recommend it to him as a genuine proposal which he can readily accept that, given that there seems to be no competition in this area, there seems to be no good reason why the laboratory should not be dispersed beyond the Greater London area. It will not depend on bulk raw materials; it will not depend necessarily on rapid communication. It will depend on the parcel post and the letter post, on samples for analysis. So the remoteness of West Cumberland is not a real drawback.

I would say to those people working in the establishment that they might enjoy, probably would enjoy, living in and around the most beautiful national park in Britain, enjoy living as well as working there. If I can say that, I think I can say as much as many other people who have introduced travelogues and catalogues of the various delights of their constituencies—including the Merseyside sound, which we have heard in this debate.

I confine my remarks to that, with some hope of a positive response from the Government.

8.30 p.m.

Miss Mary Holt (Preston, North)

My initial reaction upon reading the Hard-man Report was that it was extremely complicated for a comparatively simple subject; with too many appendices it seemed as though it was designed to clog the mind and prevent anyone from reaching a clear decision. I appreciate that a great deal of work was done upon it, but I hope that when future reports of this kind are prepared every effort will be made to make them simple and easy to read, with as little repetition as possible.

There can be had from this report some interesting statistics about the extent to which the Government are providing job opportunities in office employment in the South-East. It is office jobs that are growing fastest in number, far faster than any other types of employment. Government office jobs are, however, paid for by the taxpayers in all parts of the country, and it is surely fair, so far as Government efficiency permits it, that those jobs shall go to all the regions. It used to be said that trade followed the flag, but surely trade also follows the dispersal of Government Departments.

Of the non-industrial Civil Service of 500,000 it appears that about 145,000—according to the corrected figures supplied today by the Minister—are in London, and of these the South-East, including London, has 107,000, or a little more, that is, 73.3 per cent., whereas the North-West, in which my constituency is situated and where I live, has 8,430 or only 5.5 per cent.—5.5 per cent. against 70 per cent. It really is appalling.

The Hardman Report covers only 86,000 headquarters posts, and London is, for the purposes of the report, most generously defined, in my opinion, as being 16 miles either way from Charing Cross. Anyone who has had to drive across London knows that it extends far more than that on each side of Charing Cross.

The two criteria adopted in the report—efficiency of government and the needs of regional policy—appear to me to be correct, but the difficulty is and the disastrous effect is that the former, in the report, is given far more emphasis than the latter. In considering the efficiency of government the report deals with what it calls "resources effects".

I would mention one or two points which have already been covered by some speakers. It is alleged as one argument against dispersal that the overall effect would be very little on the registered unemployment, but I beg my hon. Friend to appreciate that in some areas any effect at all on unemployment is very welcome indeed.

As for unregistered unemployment, many unemployed women never register. A substantial number of jobs which come through dispersal will go to women, and any dispersal must therefore be welcome in areas such as Lancashire, where women traditionally have employment. It raises the standard of living of the whole family when the wife goes out to work, and it is my contention that dispersal to the North-West will have a very substantial effect on some types of unemployment.

The report accepts that it is less costly to find accommodation in the regions than in London. Certainly in the North-West, my constituency in particular, we have a surplus of office accommodation and can supply it at a rate per square foot very much less than in London. Further, housing is very much more readily available and far less expensive in the Central Lancashire New Town area. In that area new housing developments are springing up almost daily.

I would have thought that it was a resource gain, although this is not mentioned in the report, if civil servants are not exhausted by their daily journeys in the unpleasant atmosphere of the London tube or on overcrowded London buses, and are not over ennervated by the heat of the "Great Wen" in summer. I never travel to my constituency without feeling the freshness of the air. I cannot resist the conclusion that any civil servants sent to Lancashire will benefit mentally from the freshness of the Lancashire breezes. I would be glad to see sharp-wittedness among civil servants because it is something which I sometimes fail to detect.

The report argues that dispersal would involve an increase, on average, of 30 new posts per thousand jobs dispersed. This seems an excessive concession to Parkinson's Law. The existing staff should surely manage the dispersal themselves, as they would have to if they were in a private firm. I beg the Government not to incur extra expenditure on that account.

The Government have accepted the desirability of helping the less favoured areas. I certainly welcome the proposal to send some staff to the Central Lancashire new town. I regret that the report does not suggest that more civil servants should be sent to Central Lancashire. I regret that more civil servants will not have the opportunity of enjoying the beautiful hills and fells of Lancashire, the easy access to the seaside and Lake District.

The report stresses the need for rapid communications for the dispersed civil servants. As my hon. Friend knows, the Central Lancashire new town has wonderful communications. This is one reason why it was selected as a base for development. It is 2 hours 43 minutes to London by electric train, if the train is on time. In Lancashire the motorways enable anyone living there to travel rapidly from Manchester to Liverpool, to Scotland and other areas.

The importance of contact between Government and public is mentioned in the report which says that one of the disadvantages of dispersal would be that civil servants would not have the same contact with institutions representing important features of our national life. It would be nice to see these faceless men from Whitehall in Lancashire. A great deal would be gained if we knew what they were like and appreciated their attitudes.

I beg the Minister to reconsider the figure of 31,000 for dispersal. The figure of 6,300 for Lancashire, considering that we have 9 million people there already, and considering our contribution to the national life is not enough. In the 19th century we were the power house of England. We have the capacity to be so again. The figure of 6,300 is too few. I beg him, in considering the resiting of the Ministry of Defence, to bear in mind the pre-eminent claims of the Central Lancashire new town which are at least as important and powerful as those of Milton Keynes.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

Having listened to the debate from the beginning I want to make two blunt points straight away.

First, one would imagine that the House today is attempting to elevate the Civil Service into some form of industrial elite. I dissociate myself from that view. I have a number of acquaintances—I almost said friends—in the Civil Service. We forget that many of these ladies and gentlemen came from the regions. They know the regions as well as I do. The truth is that they left the regions only because they had to find jobs in London.

The second thing that annoys me is the number of right hon. and hon. Members who have taken the time of the House to say, "We are much obliged that we have had 1,000 or 5,000 jobs, but we want much more." I talk for North-East Lancashire, which did not have a kind word out of Hardman. It is an area that has contributed to the economic well-being of the country from the turn of the century to the present day, paying rates and taxes with the rest of the country. But we did not get a kind word from Hardman, so the people in North-East Lancashire have no time for the man or his report.

It is my privilege tonight to speak for some 450,000 people of all political parties and of none. They feel most indignant that notwithstanding the position they have held for so long they did not get even one mention in the report. It is not good enough.

There are nine hon. Members who in turn are members of the North-East Lancashire Development Committee. I am pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) here, because she has played a considerable part consistently in the aims and aspirations of the area. We dissociate ourselves entirely from the North West. Ministers will say—I have heard—that so many thousands of jobs have gone to Manchester, Merseyside, and south Manchester. I have come to the conclusion after 15 years of experience that they do not give a damn about North-East Lancashire. It needs to be said and I am going to say it. If other subjects were being discussed tonight I would have no trouble proving the privileges the North West has had for many years compared with North-East Lancashire. The benefits given to that area do not necessarily apply to North-East Lancashire.

I thank the Minister for the courteous way in which he received a deputation from North-East Lancashire led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn. We were listened to patiently, and were given plenty of time. Our case was substantially that our contribution and our potential in terms of the standard of education for young people were undeniable. The Minister will recall that the chairman of the College of Further Education at Nelson said that through the years he had had experience of young people leaving that college, applying for jobs in the area—all of a kind we are discussing tonight—and not being successful. I could give precise figures if I had time. I ask the House to accept that they are substantial.

In North-East Lancashire there is reasonably full employment, about which I openly rejoice. Yet our insured popu- lation is going down. It does not need a member of the CID to determine why. The reason is simple: they are qualified for jobs that they cannot obtain. For that reason the drift to the south perpetuates itself. It is a reflection on the standard of the Government's social and industrial morality. I hope that I would speak similarly if my party were in office.

It is no good their saying that it is impossible, by virtue of distance, to do what we want to be done. Anyone would think that the regions were akin to outer Siberia at the turn of the century when in fact they are far more attractive than the capital. I have lived in the capital for upwards of 30 years. If one wants to enjoy the artificialities of life, one should come here. If one wants to enjoy the realities, one should go to the areas mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for Chorley (Mrs. Monks) and some of my hon. Friends. I am surprised that responsible people like Government officials should want to justify geographic clandestine behaviour on the part of some people when they know perfectly well that the contrary might well be the truth.

Ministers at Brussels are fighting hard and, I believe, sincerely for more aid for the regions. I wonder what Mr. George Thomson would have said if he were present at this debate. I wonder whether he has read the Hardman Report and knows that it is proposed to direct about 50 per cent. of 31,000 dispersals to Milton Keynes. If it was not so confoundedly ironic and unjust, it would make a donkey laugh. It is making a mockery of the regions and I do not propose to be associated with it. I do not give a damn what people think of me as a result.

People were sent to North-East Lancashire to examine the sites which it could offer. They examined 22 sites, all of which had more than fair promise. One would think that that was enough to convince any responsible Government that our needs required attention.

We are not unaware that the Government are proposing the development of Maplin and the Channel Tunnel. If those plans proceed, hundred of millions of pounds of investment will go to the South-East. As I have said many times in fairness, the Government do not have a bottomless purse. Never mind what the Liberals say about the Kilbrandon Report; time is not on our side to enable us to wait for that. We are entitled and deserve action now, and we hope that the Government will respond accordingly.

There is a need for brevity and that is why I will not give many of the figures that I should like to give. North-East Lancashire has a large adaptable labour force. Only a few years ago these men worked predominantly in cotton and coal. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn will remember after the war begging the people of North-East Lancashire to stick to textiles because they were so important to the nation's economy. The phrase then used which has since become a cliché was that the nation's bread hangs on Lancashire's thread. There has been a tremendous change. Today, engineering is predominant, with miscellaneous industry. That is not good enough. There is no balanced economic basis. By any conceivable law we are entitled to have a balanced industrial unit in terms of administrative staff and that is what we seek from the Government.

If the nine members of the North-East Lancashire Development Committee find eventually that the half promises do not materialise, I serve notice that so far as lies within my power I shall play hell in this House and outside for the sake of the people without whom I would not be in this House.

Having been a trade union official for some years and very much involved in the industrial economy I know that we also have a good record of labour relations. Money spent in North-East Lancashire is more likely to be an investment than expenditure. We possess intermediate area status, although we have not had a great deal of benefit therefrom.

We have relatively low-priced property, land and buildings; which should make a tremendous appeal to the Government. We have relative freedom from traffic congestion and we are near to large regional centres of population in the North-West and the West Riding. We have ready access to attractive countryside. Some of the Minister's advisers know that as well as I do because they hail from that area. There is no need to convince them. They were convinced before they left the area to come south

There is readily available and generally low-priced housing and there are several good golf courses. We have in the North-East some exceptionally good soccer and rugby teams. If these civil servants are the responsible people that we are led to believe they are they will like to know that regard for the education of children in North-East Lancashire is second to none. When my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made his attack on public schools I thought he might have come from the North East because the schools there are so good. The area has every conceivable characteristic to enable responsible people to look at it with approval.

I ask that the half promises made to us at the meeting, for which I am duly thankful and appreciative, be carried out. We have had nothing at all and we are entitled not to privilege, not even to parity, but at least to a recognition that we exist and are entitled to better treat-men than Hardman seems to have dished out to us.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. John Sutcliffe (Middlesbrough, West)

When one has lived, talked over and worried about a problem for years there comes a time to make a serious effort to deal with it. My area has a problem of a section of the community with worse prospects of employment than the rest, or indeed than communities in most other areas. I refer to school leavers and married women in Teesside. This is the very section of the community to which the Civil Service looks for local recruitment and therefore we expect a Civil Service infusion from the Government.

My hon. Friend the Minister has been patient. More than that, he has been exceedingly good-humoured at all times while under pressure, not just from me but from many hon. Members and many regional lobbies. I was particularly pleased when he today responded by giving a regional emphasis in introducing this debate. He put on one side so many of Sir Henry Hardman's intricate calculations, not least the average level of average trade-off calculation with which I have taxed him in correspondence.

Not long ago the Minister gave a talk to sixth formers in Middlesbrough and what matters to me is that in his remarks in this debate he has echoed in so many words what we say on Teesside. How much longer are we to tolerate the forced migration from a regional area of its intelligent school leavers and graduates? Never mind Hardman. The Minister knows, because he has common sense—and I hope he is listening to what I am saying—that the benefits from dispersal must be greatest in areas of high unemployment and where the balance between clerical and non-clerical jobs is utterly lop-sided.

The Minister referred to the document of the North of England Development Council entitled "The Great Divide". I hope he has also seen a copy of the letter from the North Regional Planning Committee to the Prime Minister. He will know that the most unanswerable part of the case argued in these papers was not the need of Washington, in County Durham, which I am glad is to get 2,000 jobs, but the need of Teesside. Although the Teesside case is unanswerable, its need is answerable and it has been amply illustrated in statistics from Members of the Opposition, notably the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) as well as in a very effective speech from the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley).

I live not far from the Tees and I would count as lucky any civil servant who was asked to do the same. I realise that in this debate every hon. Member has had some advice as to the glory of the countryside of a particular region in which civil servants can live. A civil servant can live in the best countryside in all England and be only 15 minutes from the centre of Teesside. Those few civil servants who are in the North now are more reluctant to move south than their counterparts may be to move north.

What Teesside civil servants want is a career structure which will remove the threat of their being forced south again. I have had many meetings with their representatives over the last few months. They have no reservations whatever about the superior quality of life in the North-East. Those commercial firms which we have encouraged to move north feel the same.

The Government have the opportunity now to encourage more firms to move north by giving firms the example of moving Government Departments into the regions. Out of the 60 commercial firms with regional offices which were investigated by Messrs. Rhodes and Kan, who wrote the book "Office Dispersal and Regional Development", it is significant that no fewer than 57 said that the communications damage which they suffered was not serious and less than they had expected.

I have said all that I want to say at the end of this debate. Being the last back-bench speaker on the Government side of the House, I hope that the Minister will be able to bear what I have said longer in mind than some of what has been said by my colleagues. I end with this comment. The bringing of Civil Service departments to the Teesside area would provide one of the vital pieces necessary to complete the complicated jigsaw puzzle of establishing the correct balance between the traditional heavy industries and the service sector, a balance which is essential if this development area is to grow, and to grow not only economically but socially. That is the crux of the matter, and that is how, in regional terms, the North of England Development Council put it in a nutshell.

9.2 p.m.

Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)

Time presses and I, too, shall say much less than I intended to say. I pay tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department for meeting so readily all those organisations which asked to meet him. He was entitled to refer to that in his speech. I attended three of those meetings. The Parliamentary Secretary was a very good listener. But I say to him bluntly, although in a friendly tone, that we in the northern region hope that this has not been just a public relations exercise. We hope that we do not have to use the American phrase "smooth operator" about the Parliamentary Secretary. That phrase can be applied to some of his colleagues on the Government Front Bench, although not those who are on the Front Bench at present.

The most important thing that the Parliamentary Secretary said was that the Government are not committed to either the scale or the pattern of the report's recommendations. I welcome that as a Member representing a constituency in the northern region. I support in every syllable the devastating case made by my right hon. friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) against the Hardman Report, in spite of the announcement about Washington and the promise to look further into Teesside, and I obviously give a full welcome to those, too.

All those who have spoken in the debate today have justified their case. I shall leave mine in one sentence from a member of the Government—the Under-secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He said as recently as 5th October, when speaking to the Teesside and District Productivity Association We also need a greater proportion of clerical jobs, where, outside north Tyneside this region has distinctly fewer employment opportunities than in the South-East, and in comparison with the national average. That speaks for itself. There are two main reasons why we want more clerical Civil Service jobs. One, which has been referred to in the debate, is that it will make the region less dependent on heavy industry with its history of booms and slumps, but there is also the effect that it will have on our young people, who are entitled to the same wide choice of jobs as is available in other parts of the country. Young people and graduates from the northern region are continually migrating to the Midlands and the South. I think I understood the Minister to say that his first reason, or one of his main reasons, for the dispersal of Civil Service jobs was the opportunity it provided for young people.

Mr. Kenneth Baker indicated assent.

Mr. Dormand

Of course, there is the other point that society as a whole is moving away from manual work to service industries and there is no reason why change should not take place evenly throughout the country. There is, in fact, a reason, and it could be the inertia or the misjudgement of the Government. The Government's policy has yet to be proved.

Those of us from the northern region do not come today with begging bowls. We question, as did my right hon. Friend, many of the arguments in the Hardman Report. I personally question the very basis and the main theme of the report. I say that the onus is on the Government to prove why any Department should stay in London, for the reasons which have been given many times today. We also question the conclusions drawn from the evidence. I say simply that the best example that can be given from the report is that which has been quoted many times today—Milton Keynes. It is incredible that a recommendation to a Government should involve 10,000 jobs going to a place which does not want them and which says they would be bad for it.

I turn to an aspect which Hardman says is vitally important. I refer to the cost of office accommodation in London. The report says: More important is the effect from using less costly provincial accommodation. This is substantial and real … I repeat that because I have perhaps the latest figures on costs to be quoted in the debate. I take them from a report published last month by estate agents Richard Lionel and Partners. The report says that in every area of London where there are office blocks there has been at least a 50 per cent. increase since January this year. The report gives three specific examples. In Mayfair the cost is now £13 a square foot, in Knightsbridge £10 a square foot and in Soho £8 a square foot. In Newcastle and Teesside the cost per square foot is £1.30. On the evidence of these figures, who is surprised that the much-vaunted rush of foreign firms to establish offices in London since we joined the EEC has not materialised? We heard a great deal about that in the last couple of years, but now a survey of the 750 top companies in Holland, France, Belgium and Germany shows that none of them has any intention of establishing an office in London.

I conclude by referring to my constituency and I do so because it includes the new town of Peterlee. Hardman draws attention specially to new towns, pointing out their advantages and their needs. I regret to have to tell the House that Peterlee has the highest unemployment rate of all new towns in the country and the lowest number of service jobs, and it must be one of the few new towns, if not the only one, which has no Government work.

Against that black picture, I can say that the new town is unique in that it has a proposal—indeed, the basic part of it has already commenced—for a "science city", the details of which I have considerable knowledge. It is only to be compared with that most exciting similar project in North Carolina, in the United States. I have raised the question of Peterlee many times in this House, both in Questions and in debates, and have had many half promises, but nothing at all has materialised.

I conclude by making a very humble specific request to the Minister. Will he at least consider that the laboratory of the Government Chemist, which would produce 350 jobs, be placed in Peterlee? That is surely not very ambitious. I am pleased to see that the Minister is smiling. I ask for that in particular because of the scientific potential which we have in Peterlee and the need for a spark of that kind to give it status and, perhaps, to attract other types of work to the new town.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)

Every hon. Member who has spoken in this debate has severely criticised the Hardman Report for its inadequacies on regional policy. I simply wish to reiterate the view expressed by many hon. Members that from that point of view it is a profoundly disappointing document. The speech of my right hon. Friend who opened the debate on this side of the House very well demonstrated its inadequacies. The only point that I would make about regional policy is that one of the great disappointments under both Governments in recent years has been that regional policy has had virtually no effect at all on office and services employment.

In opening the debate the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the considerable number of jobs which had left central London under the stimulus of the Location of Offices Bureau, but the vast majority of those jobs went either to other locations in the South-East or to other favoured areas of the country. Virtually none of them went to development areas. If development areas are to get their fair share of office jobs it is essential to have a massive dispersal of Civil Service jobs to these areas. It cannot be done in any other way. I was very glad that my right hon. Friend dealt at such length and so effectively with the efficiency arguments, because I believe that Hardman grossly exaggerated the importance of these in his report. It ought to be remembered that most major Government Departments located in London are already split up and fragmented to a considerable extent. Also, as my right hon. Friend said, it is not true that there are thousands of civil servants personally advising Ministers every day. That is a complete myth. Anyone who has had any kind of experience of government knows that that is so.

But, most important of all, virtually no attention was paid in the Hardman Report to the already dispersed jobs and particularly to the experience of the Scottish Office. I specifically mention the Scottish Office rather than the Welsh Office, because I know it well and because it has been longer established and is a bigger organisation. I know that the Scottish Office is not just a branch of a United Kingdom Department but it has many of the problems of communication and so on, which any Government Department has. Without going into details, I simply say that in my opinion, despite the separation of civil servants from Ministers, the Scottish Office operates just as efficiently as any other Government Department of which I have any knowledge and, in many respects, operates a good deal more efficiently. One of the major deficiencies of the Hardman Report is that the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office were not considered in considerable detail.

Also, from the point of view of efficiency, problems of general recruitment, accommodation and so on, in London, must be taken into account. It seems to me that a prima-facie case for a major dispersal from London is more than made out. I certainly accept the proposition that from the efficiency point of view dispersal should be to a limited number of locations, but all of us in the regions utterly reject the Hardman concept that the greater the distance from London the greater the loss of efficiency, because, apart from anything else, that concept takes absolutely no account of the possibilities in regard to communications, transport, and so on. For example, the opportunities for rapid and easy air travel to and from Glasgow are very much better than in virtually any other area of the United Kingdom at the present time.

One proposal which has been severely criticised—and I add my criticism to it—is that a large number of Ministry of Defence jobs should go to Milton Keynes. This is such an absurd proposal that it is worth considering why it was ever made. I can only think that it was made because Hardman was impressed—he was an ex-Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence—with this mystical conception of the London-Bath axis which permeates the whole of the Ministry of Defence thinking. I served for a very short time in the Ministry of Defence and I know what a tremendous influence this has on civil servants and others in that Ministry.

Over the years the Ministry of Defence has managed to get a large number of research and other establishments located in the south and south-west of England, and it uses this as an argument for building up concentrations of civil servants in those areas. If that argument is accepted, one of the major prospects and purposes of this dispersal exercise will not be fulfilled. Indeed, the whole exercise will prove largely futile. This is the absolute test of the Government's sincerity and toughness on the dispersal exercise. Many of us on this side of the House, and I believe many on the opposite side as well, will do everything possible to break this concept of the Ministry of Defence of the London-Bath axis.

Because of the lack of time I shall not plead the special case of Glasgow and the west of Scotland—although I think there is an overwhelming case for a major dispersal of civil service work—and the recommendations of the Hardman Report concerning 1,100 jobs completely derisory. The case for Glasgow and the west of Scotland has been made impeccably and with a great deal of objectivity in the document produced by the team from Glasgow and the west of Scotland under the Lord Provost of Glasgow—"The Unanswerable Case". I hope that will have an important influence on Government policy.

I think we all recognise that staff are reluctant to move. Some of them have an exaggerated and unjustified apprehension about moving to certain parts of the country. It does not do to dismiss that, or to pretend that this is an easy problem to overcome, but I want to make two points on that. First, large numbers of civil servants originating in Glasgow and the west of Scotland and other development areas are forced to move to London. That is just as painful as it is for civil servants to move from London to the regions. Secondly, this will in any case be a long-term process, and it seems to me that with proper Government handling the difficulties of staff can be dealt with adequately.

I hope that staff difficulties will not be used as an excuse for not putting into operation a really massive dispersal here because, at the end of the day, although we must take the staff interest fully into account, the decision rests with the Government themselves, and it is on Government shoulders that we place the responsibility.

9.19 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

I have listened to the whole or part of all the speeches which have been made. On my score card I have the names of 25 hon. Members who have spoken from the back benches. Hon. Members from five regions in England and hon. Members from Scotland and Wales have taken part.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department made kind reference to me and I thank him for that. If I may, I shall return a sympathetic reference to him. He has an awful lot to listen to yet. I am sure that we can sympathise with the complexity and the difficulty of his task when the debate is over. I do not envy him for what he has to do. He has some difficult decisions to make and they will not please everybody.

The regions, lord provosts, lord mayors, hon. Members, Ministers, civil servants and others will all go for him in a way which I can describe only as "pull devil, pull baker". I think that he will be in a pretty ragged condition by the time it is all over. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Sir John Tilney) said that we would all like to see more civil servants coming to our regions. It is a surprise to me that civil servants have suddenly become so popular. I lived through the period when they were called limpets, barnacles and parasites. Apparently they are now to be welcomed with open arms. It seems that the chief complaint throughout the debate is that the regions will not get more of them. I hope that it is not just cupboard love on the part of the regions.

I shall not adjudicate on the regional claims which have been made. One reason for not doing so is that I have one of my own. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) for putting the case of Yorkshire and Humberside. If we look at any of the league tables in the Hard-man Report or elsewhere we see that Yorkshire and Humberside come out pretty badly. The difficulty about the area is that it had great expectations in the past which were not fulfilled. I remember that we were going to have the influx of large numbers of Inland Revenue officials at Shipley. There was there to be an Inland Revenue pay-as-you-earn computer centre. The site was designated and an elaborate board was put up announcing the second coming. Strangely enough, nobody threw stones at it.

The Government and the much-hated tax inspectors were going to Shipley to do their pay-as-you-earn more efficiently and to do a great deal more of it. Apparently they were to be welcomed by Shipley. But what has happened? The computer programme has been abandoned. We now have the tax credit system. The Minister held out the hope to the new town of Washington that the child credits under the forthcoming tax credit scheme, if we get it, will be paid out from Washington.

This is the moment to utter a cautionary word—"Do not count your chickens before they are hatched". Shipley counted them and did not get them.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) referred to the disappointment that Tees-side had when it thought that it was getting the National Savings Bank. I am informed that at the time the staff were canvassed for their choice. They were told that it could be Liverpool, Teesside or Glasgow. Elaborate steps were taken to canvass the general opinion of all concerned. By an overwhelming majority they plumped for Teesside; so it went to Glasgow. I am not saying for a moment that they are not happy at Glasgow. Let us not kid the Civil Service. If there is no choice, tell it so. If there is a real choice, let it exercise it. That is the message which I give on that matter.

I think that it would be a mistake to predict more dispersal than is likely to take place in the foreseeable future because, if we do, it will raise false hopes at the receiving end and create uncertainty over a much longer period than is necessary at the dispersal end. Let us bear in mind that some of the Flemming dispersals are not yet complete—and Flemming reported exactly 10 years ago. A great many changes will take place in any scheme of dispersal which lasts a decade.

Another point to remember is that jobs on paper are no good to anybody. Much vehemence and conviction, all justified and appreciated, have been introduced into the speeches today about jobs which are not (here until offices are built or homes provided and many other services are laid on for specific blocks of civil servants who may move from London to other areas. These things take a long time and sometimes they are delayed through causes over which people have no control. Jobs in 10 years' time may be something to look forward to but the pressure, surely, for additional employment in many of the regions is much more urgent than that.

Another point is that the dispersal should not be in penny packets. I cannot agree with the idea that there should be a lot of bits and pieces spread around the country. I think this would be bad for the Civil Service and for efficiency of administration and communications, and it would not do much good to the areas to which they went. I think that there is justification for enough concentration to provide all the requirements of recruitment, training, promotion, efficiency in management and organisation. These are all essential conditions of the efficiency of administration. It would be much better to decide on a comparatively few places and have a reasonable degree of dispersal in them than to have dispersal too widely spread.

I think that Sir Henry Hardman has suffered unjustly at the hands of many hon. Members today. He did a thorough job within his terms of reference. I think he must have known that he could not win at the end of the day, and yet, out of a sense of public duty, he undertook the task. He need not have done so. A distinguished civil servant, retired, need not have embarked on a job of this kind. But his terms of reference were cast in the traditional mould—that was his difficulty. They were cast in the mould of Flemming and his predecessors.

Sir Henry was told to raid Whitehall and come away with as much booty for dispersal as he could, and when he got back with the swag there were all the boys from the regions demanding a share. He knew that it was bound to lead to frustration and that he could not hope to satisfy everyone, first, because he could not get enough booty for dispersal and, secondly, because he could could not satisfy the demands waiting for him when he got back. Let us sympathise with Sir Henry even though we may say that his report is inadequate or overlooks many important aspects of this most complex problem.

I wonder sometimes whether we do not attempt on occasion to do things too scientifically. I think sometimes that a few outright judgments might be just as good as the scientific analyses of tradeoff and resources and the rest. Most of the earlier dispersals which have proved highly successful were made by outright judgments at the time and not after a long exercise in the Hardman manner. Sir Henry Hardman had to conform to the traditional approach and that I think was inadequate and accounts for a good deal of the trouble. Truly, his terms of reference were all too naive. They were lacking in imagination. There was no vision in them. Those who set him about this job did not realise the scope and breadth of the problem.

The question is, how is the machinery of Government to be spread among the people in the twentieth century? The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) introduced this new dimension into the debate. I was waiting patiently for the first reference to the Kilbrandon Commission. I waited until the eleventh speech before any mention was made of a report which very shortly will throw a lot of cats among the pigeons. There we have a report of a commission dealing with the decentralisation of Government and it is bound to have a profound effect upon the matter we are discussing today. If regions in England are to have some form of regional government, if Scotland and Wales are to have some kind of elected assembly with considerable devolution of legislative and administrative responsibilities, clearly that will alter the whole pattern of the Civil Service. I believe that the next phase in this respect will be the decentralisation of Government rather than the dispersal of Government work. That, I believe, will be the next phase in the distribution of administration.

The Hardman approach and all previous approaches were a form of amputation. Limbs were torn off conglomerate Departments which had hitherto had a degree of cohesion and of centralisation. It may be, as some hon. Members have mentioned, that it is not bits of Departments or limbs of Departments which should go but whole Departments. The whole administration should go, and we then overcome a good deal of the mythology about the need for top civil servants to be in the next room to the Minister. There are many top civil servants today who never see the Minister. I am told, for example, that in the Department of the Environment there are a couple of dozen Under-secretaries who obviously are not in close touch with the Minister. Many senior posts in the Civil Service today are not directly in touch or in constant touch with the Minister. They have their own administrative responsibilities, working within a framework of policy laid down from the top. So I believe that more dispersal of top jobs and not only of the mass of the bottom jobs should be possible when this task of dispersal is undertaken.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) introduced the Common Market, which is something else which cannot be entirely ignored in this connection. That is why I stress the fact that it would be folly, as I believe, to attempt to plan or to predict dispersals at this stage when early accomplishment will probably be overtaken by the big changes we may have to make both in the machinery of Government in this country and in our relations with the European Economic Community.

I come, finally, to the staff. As a former Chairman of the Staff Side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council and as a former General Secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation I have been into this problem on earlier occasions. I worked in a Department where there were a thousand removals a year involving changes of residence. These were huge human problems leading frequently to hardship and domestic difficulty and great distress.

There is a human factor here, and I make no apology to the House for saying that dispersal is about people as well as about jobs. It is a great deal to be transferring 15,000 people, in many cases against their will, in many cases possibly to the accompaniment of considerable personal difficulty. Let me give another warning. The last wave of dispersals went through so smoothly because there was a considerable reservoir of willing volunteers and a trawl enabled the Civil Service Department or its predecessor to get people to go on a voluntary basis. Far fewer transfers to London have been made since then. The number of people who want to get out of London, I predict, is not likely to equal the numbers that will have to go.

I doubt whether this can be done wholly by voluntary transfer. Indeed, the warning has already been uttered that it may not be possible to do it that way. I think it will be necessary to widen the trawl. The volunteers will have to come from a wider area of the Civil Service than the Departments concerned if this is to be accomplised as smoothly as before.

This House has a disaffected Civil Service at present. We are the employers of the Civil Service. They are the servants of the Crown and their conditions are determined by the Government and in turn by the House. I have never known the time when there has been more discontent in the Civil Service than now. Yet at this moment uncertainty and unwelcome prospects of movement are thrown upon a large number of people already discontented with the service, their conditions and the hold-up of their pay advances.

This has to be borne in mind. If there is a choice let it be exercised properly, fairly and in a democratic way. If there is no choice do not pretend that there is. Let civil servants know. I fear that last time people were led to believe that they had an opportunity of making a choice about the ultimate decision. That proved not to be the case. The staff has a point of view. The Minister sad that there may be a time when the public service and the national need may be paramount and public servants may have to do as they are told. I do not dispute that.

Nevertheless these are trade unionists, many of them affiliated to the TUC. Why should we not respect their position and interests, just as much as we respect the conditions and claims of other trade unionists? White-collar workers are no less trade unionists than blue-collar workers. I enter a strong plea for reasonable support for the position of the staff in this difficult exercise.

I know that the passion and the vehemence we have heard in the debate shows how deeply hon. Members feel about unemployment in the regions, the imbalance of employment, the lack of development, the school leavers they are losing. I am losing them from Sowerby. There is no administration there, yet higher education continues to turn out people year after year. They leave the area. The number on the electoral register is falling. The proportion of old people is rising. It is the classic example of an area in decline because there is nothing to encourage the skill, talents and ambitions of those who have received higher education.

We in the regions know of this problem and we know how strongly people feel about it. I do not underestimate the strength of conviction of the speeches made today. Nevertheless, the staff interest has to be placed alongside this, no more and no less. It should not be paramount If there are considerations which can take into account the human factors affecting those who are going as well as the human factors of those who want the jobs at the other end, then we shall achieve a better balance and complete this ambitious exercise with a minimum degree of hardship and discontent. Ministers have the responsibility for decisions. I am sure that the whole House hopes they will bear it patiently and discharge it with sympathy, courage and humanity.

9.40 p.m.

The Minister for Local Government and Development (Mr. Graham Page)

It is always a pleasure to speak following the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). Although we have heard the sad announcement that he will not stand after this Parliament there is still much time of this one left and I hope I shall have the pleasure of replying to him again. And I must add that I agree thoroughly with many of the points he made tonight.

This has been a peculiar debate, in which civil servants have become terribly popular and the regions have been holding out the prospect of wonderful social services and amenities which is not what we normally hear in debates.

I would like to put the right hon. Member's mind at rest on one point that he raised. I confirm that the Government propose to set up the Inland Revenue Accounts Office at Shipley. We shall go ahead with that, and eventually up to 1,000 staff will be involved. I have taken the matter out of order in my speech so as to give that assurance to the right hon. Member.

Despite the many unkind words that have been said about Sir Henry Hardman and his report, I congratulate and thank his sincerely for the job that he did. It has not been an easy job; as the right hon. Member for Sowerby said, it is a job on which one cannot win.

My hon. Friend for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) pointed out that the motion was to take note of the report. It is also to take note of what right hon. and hon. Members have to say about it. We hope we shall be able to make decisions quickly on the dispersal of civil servants.

It is the first major effort to carry out a dispersal of this kind since 1963. It is all very well to be critical, but there was no initiative in this area between 1964 and 1970, when we asked Sir Henry Hardman to carry out the exercise. Now he has done so and put his report before us.

Of course, there had been substantial dispersal during that decade. On the first page of the statement by the Government, at the beginning of the report, the figures are set out: over a third (some 57,000) of all headquarters staffs already work outside London; some 23,600 posts have moved since 1963 while, under current plans for further dispersal, some 6,800 more are due to leave the capital". As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department said, there are 10,000 posts which move each year, so the process has been an outgoing one. But this is a particular exercise designed to lead a major dispersal.

We shall make decisions as quickly as possible. It is rather like judging a beauty contest. As a Member of Parliament, I have always insisted that my wife should never judge one, because in doing so one makes more enemies than friends. I am afraid that the decisions we shall take on Hardman will make us more enemies than friends. However, we must make those decisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) complained that Hardman does not start with the proper degree of conviction that there should be a dispersal.

I give the assurance that the Government do. Whether it is on the basis of emotion or logic, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead said, let me now quote the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks): we mean business, and we will carry out a dispersal of this kind. In the terms the hon. Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) used, the Government accept the challenge. To quote my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North it is a challenge to civil servants and not only to the Government. We must therefore try to make it acceptable to the civil servants whom we shall literally be pushing around and to whom we shall be causing a certain amount of hardship and stress.

Let me deal with the question of the size of the cake. We start with the total number of civil servants in London, 143,000. Of those, 47,000 are involved in essentially regional or local work and must be located in London. Therefore, the figure comes down to 95,000. It has been questioned whether we should have included in that figure the whole of the South-East headquarters staff and not just those within a 16-mile radius of London. I am advised that we would add only about 12,000 to the figure if we took the whole of the headquarters staff, including those in the South-East outside that 16-miles radius. However, I give the assurance that we shall consider the point, because it is the South-East as a whole which is overheated and where the pressure arises.

The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) raised two questions about the National Savings staff. They were not included because it was thought that they were so closely concerned with the Treasury, the City and investment policy; it seemed appropriate that they should remain in London. I am not sure that I agree with that argument, especially in view of the announcement by my hon. Friend that the Companies Registration Office is to move, and I will therefore consider the matter again.

The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon Tyne, Central also questioned the lack of movement from his old Department, namely, the Department of Education and Science. I have a note of the answer that he gave on 3rd March 1969 when he was Secretary of State for Education and Science, in which he said: The transfer to Darlington of 620 posts concerned with teachers' pensions, teachers' salaries and qualifications, and the Department's new computer, will be completed by May, 1970. I have no proposals for the movement of any other work from the London area within the next five years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March 1969; Vol. 779, c. 34.] We are, therefore, only following the right hon. Gentleman's policy.

I come now to the review of the numbers of Civil Service headquarters posts in London, 78,000; the headquarters posts occupied by members of Her Majesty's forces, 3,000; and headquarters posts not part of the Civil Service, 5,000. That makes up the total of 86,000 about which we have been talking.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the right hon. Gentleman say a word or two about the National Savings Committee staff, which numbers about 500?

Mr. Page

It was thought that they were so linked with other headquarters staff that they should remain in London. I have given the assurance that we shall look at this matter again.

Of that 86,000, 31,000 are possible candidates for removal. Many hon. Members have questioned that figure, and have wondered whether it should be higher than 31,427.

However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) said, this is a substantial figure. Forty per cent. is a remarkably large percentage for a possible movement of staff. Compared with the 18,000 moves which Flemming recommended in 1963, 31,000 is evidently a substantially higher figure. To go further has involved a substantial change in Government policy.

In my Department we have reflected that change of approach over the past few years by moving decision making and policy making into the regions. The right hon. Member for Sowerby mentioned the number of higher civil servants now in the regions. That represented a major change in Government policy. The terms of reference for Hardman did not go as far as that. We presented him with the existing Government policy and said, "What can you do about getting civil servants out of London on the basis of that policy?"

We should not wait for Kilbrandon before getting on with the job. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) first raised this question and one or two other hon. Members have mentioned it. There may be substantial changes and a greater movement of the Civil Service out of London if there are recommendations in the Kilbrandon Report which are accepted by the House for the movement of Government itself rather than Government work—that is the decentralisation of Government, not merely the movement of Government administration.

The two main factors on which Hardman was working were the efficiency of Government operations and the need for regional policy. We cannot disregard efficiency, and Sir Henry Hardman set out certain mathematics by which he calculated it. Not being a mathematician, I am afraid that I have almost completely failed to follow it. However, I base my argument on regional policy and the vital necessity to continue the regional policies which the Government have put into operation during their period of office. The Government have pursued policies which have had the double objective of reducing pressures in the congested areas of the country, such as the South-East, and of helping regions elsewhere to cope with the process of radical change in their employment structures. On this basis we shall decide how to carry out the Hardman recommendations.

I will briefly list what I consider to be the needs of the regions. It is on those needs that we shall base our dispersal decisions. First, there is the need to compensate for the continuing decline of employment in traditional industries, particularly by providing for the Civil Service type of work in areas in which, in the past, we have mainly concentrated industrial jobs.

Following from what I have said, there is the need to diversify possible employment and to provide a better range of job opportunities. The movement of a few tens of thousands of civil servants cannot provide all that, but it stimulates the variety of jobs in the area to which they are moved.

Thirdly, there is the need to reduce the rate at which outward migration takes place. Fourthly, there is the need to increase spending power in the regions. This was mentioned by one or two hon. Members as an advantage which will flow from moving this number of civil servants from London into the regions. Finally, there is the need to draw a larger proportion of women into gainful employment and thereby to raise family incomes.

The argument now turns, of course, on where to put those 31,000. Everyone has made claims. No fewer than 14 claims have been made for the Milton Keynes surplus. The Parliamentary Secretary announced that we were thinking again about this area. Incidentally, I deliberately used the pronunciation "Keynes" to rhyme with "beans", whereas everyone except my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), in whose constituency the town falls, has used the pronunciation which rhymes with "pains". We shall, of course, look at this surplus and try to place it correctly in the other areas.

The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central agreed with our having listed the appropriate areas. This is, and must be, a matter of Government policy, but it does not mean that that list is absolutely firm. Other areas have been mentioned—West Cumberland, for example. We are considering very seriously the possibility of moving the staff of the Government Chemist to West Cumberland. Other cases have been mentioned with which I will not have time to deal, but I will try to let those who have mentioned them know the results of our consideration.

I want to deal quickly with the very important matter of the co-operation of the staff. It is all very well for the Minister to stand at this Box and say, "We will carry out a policy of dispersal." In moving staff out of London, we are dealing with human beings, with families and their lives. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Sowerby was right to say that we do not now have that pool of civil servants who are prepared to move, because we have trawled for them in the past removals. When 10,000 a year have to move, that must mean that we have got nearly to the end of the volunteers. So we must have the cooperation of the staff and we shall do everything we can to make the moves easy for them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Sir John Tilney) mentioned help with mortgages and housing. We are looking into this very earnestly and I hope that we shall be able to help, in this and other ways, to make the move smooth.

The only resource that the Civil Service possesses is the skill and experience of its own staff. The Government intend to manage this dispersal programme in a way which will earn the co-operation of those staff. That is why I particularly welcome the offers of help by local authorities and others at the receiving end and the arrangements which have been made to take civil servants and show them what the areas concerned have to offer.

This is a recognition—we must be conscious of this throughout this exercise—that we are dealing not just with numbers of posts or jobs, or job opportunities, but with people and their families, and we must see that they are properly treated in this move. I hope that when we come to take the decisions about where they shall move we shall be able in that way to satisfy the staff.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the report by Sir Henry Hardman on the dispersal of Government work from London (Command Paper No. 5322).

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