HC Deb 18 March 1974 vol 870 cc658-61
34. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on Civil Service scientists' pay negotiations.

35. Mr. Jessel

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on the salaries of scientists employed in the Civil Service.

36. Mr. Le Marchant

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will give urgent attention to the pay claim of Government scientists.

38. Sir J. Eden

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what reply he has given to the representations about the pay of Government scientists; and what are the special relativity aspects to which he is giving consideration.

39. Mr. Hunt

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he expects to reach a conclusion on the current pay claim of Civil Service scientists.

The Minister of State, Civil Service Department (Mr. Robert Sheldon)

Government scientists have a vital rôle to play and I have already discussed their important pay claim with representatives of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants.

The report of the Pay Board, which has been considering the method and criteria for determining scientists' pay, is expected very soon. Following that report I intend to do all I can to find a solution as quickly as possible.

Mr. Dalyell

Is not the reality of the position that Civil Service scientists are not one jump but two jumps behind every one else?

Mr. Sheldon

As my hon. Friend points out, the scientists regard themselves as being two steps behind every one else. I fully accept the reasoning behind the need to try to find a satisfactory solution as soon as possible.

Mr. Jessel

Will the Minister consider agreeing to an interim award without delay? Is he aware that there is a great deal of feeling on this subject at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, in my constituency?

Mr. Sheldon

I fully agree with the strength of feeling on this subject. That is why I have pressed most strongly for the Pay Board to produce its report as soon as possible. The report will come before my Department, after which we can make the changes required.

Mr. Le Marchant

I congratulate the Minister upon his appointment. Does he realise that there is evidence of illness caused by worry over this matter, and will he be as speedy as possible in resolving it?

Mr. Sheldon

In my discussions with the Institution of Professional Civil Servants I have always expressed anxiety for an early resolution. Discussions which I have had, and representations which I have made to the Pay Board, indicate this.

Mr. Lipton

Why does my hon. Friend not accept responsibility for the pay of fingerprint officers at New Scotland Yard? Their pay is linked with that of scientific officers and they have been awaiting a settlement of their pay claim since 1971.

Mr. Sheldon

Although there is a linkage between the two bodies which my hon. Friend mentioned, this is primarily the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Mr. Baker

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman upon his appointment and also upon his promotion, within a week, to the post of Minister of State. It is the fastest rise in political history since Lady Jane Grey became Queen after being a lady-in-waiting for only a week. Will the hon. Gentleman explain the discrepancy between his answer and the statement of the Secretary of State, who told the miners and the National Coal Board to settle without regard to the Pay Board or phase 3? Why are Government scientists being asked to settle within phase 3, and why are they having to await a report from the Pay Board? Why is there discrepancy in the treatment of different pay claims?

Mr. Sheldon

As the hon. Gentleman will understand, the problem is not the rate of pay but the method by which the whole settlement is to be determined, and it is upon this that we are waiting to hear from the Pay Board.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's concern about my personal appointment, may I point out that perhaps over the next few weeks, months or even years the value of the present administration will be judged adequately by those who will be concerned?

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Will the Minister ensure that these people are in no wise penalised for their restraint and the temperate way in which they have put forward their persuasive case? Will he ensure that they get at least as speedy, sympathetic and constructive consideration as any other body of workers?

Mr. Sheldon

I accept that the claim has been made in a temperate way. That is one further reason why speed is essential.

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