HC Deb 04 December 1975 vol 901 cc1930-1
Q5. Mr. Graham

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library of the House of Commons a copy of his public speech on local government expenditure to the Joint Local Government Conference at Eastbourne on 20th November.

Q10. Mr. Bean

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech to the Local Government Conference at Eastbourne on 20th November on local government expenditure.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friends to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) on 25th November, Sir.

Mr. Graham

In his speech my right hon. Friend drew attention to the increase, over the last 10 years, in the number of people in local government—an increase from 1.5 million to 2.5 million, or 67 per cent. Bearing in mind the imperative need to maximise the use of national resources, will my right hon. Friend tell us of any ways in which effective steps are being taken to monitor the use of labour in local government services?

The Prime Minister

The figures have certainly risen. It is only fair to say that just as expenditure depends on policy, so manpower depends on policy. Successive Governments have loaded local authorities—in my view, rightly, to a large extent—with very important social duties. I am concerned, as the House is, with the ratio between those who are doing the job and the administrative controllers—the chiefs and Indians question. The real control, however, comes through finance, and the House will shortly be debating the rate support grant, on which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment made a statement very recently.

Mr. Michael Latham

How did the Prime Minister dare to go to Eastbourne and lecture local government about chiefs and Indians, when the national Civil Service, for which he is directly responsible, expanded by 11,000 between July and October this year?

The Prime Minister

The increase in the Civil Service over the past few years, under successive Governments, has been much less than the increase in local government. I also informed the conference of the policies concerning a review of Civil Service employment. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is some difficulty about comparability of the figures. The increase to which he referred was partly because there were many vacant positions in the Civil Service which had not been recruited when we took office. Some of those have been filled. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware of the way in which the figures were—how shall I put it?—presented, as a result of transferring a number of services which were previously in the Civil Service such as the Manpower Services Commision, to outside, and then claiming credit for a reduction in the numbers employed.