HC Deb 19 May 1975 vol 892 cc1002-4
32. Mr. Stokes

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he satisfied with the work done by the Pay Research Unit in comparing pay in the Civil Service with pay and conditions obtaining outside.

The Minister of State, Civil Service Department (Mr. Charles R. Morris)

Yes, Sir. I am entirely satisfied with the Pay Research Unit's work, which is to identify by objective studies comparable work outside the Civil Service and to report the facts about pay and conditions attaching to it.

Mr. Stokes

In view of the secrecy surrounding both the composition of this body and the scope of its work, how can the Minister convince the House that this body truly is independent? How can he be sure that the comparisons are valid, bearing in mind that civil servants' rates are now out of line with industry, that it is very hard to get the sack in the Civil Service and that the Civil Service is the only employer in England which has inflation-proof pensions?

Mr. Morris

As I indicated to the hon. Member in the reply which I gave to a Written Question of his on 12th May, there is no conspiracy or secrecy surrounding the composition of the Civil Service Pay Research Unit. In fact, the names of the individuals who comprise the Pay Research Unit are published in the Civil Service Year Book. As for the pay facts which emerge from the deliberations and work of the Pay Research Unit, the Priestley Commission in 1956 laid it down as a general principle that civil servants were entitled to fair comparisons with the rates of pay and salaries enjoyed by workers in the private sector. All that the Civil Service Pay Research Unit seeks to do is to establish those rates of pay and make that information and analysis available for Ministers. It is Ministers who make decisions about the rates of pay of civil servants.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is general acceptance and a welcome of the findings of the Pay Research Unit and the way in which it operates and that there is no dispute on this matter between the staff side and the official side? However, is he aware that the abrupt decision to cancel the 1976 census gives rise to strains between the two sides? Would he care to comment on the fact that no consultations apparently took place before this decision was taken?

Mr. Morris

I well appreciate my hon. Friend's interest in the question of Civil Service conditions and the right of consultation. Naturally, as the Minister responsible for Civil Service pay and conditions I would expect all my ministerial colleagues to observe consultation in all matters.

The census is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I am aware that my hon. Friend has tabled a Question to her, and no doubt he will receive the appropriate answer in due course.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Will my hon. Friend accept that this pay agreement lies within the terms of the social contract? Is he aware that there are many civil servants and public servants in various parts of the country who recognize that this agreement demonstrates that this is the first Government for many years who have played fair with civil and public servants?

Mr. Morris

I am obliged by the comments of my hon. Friend in his recognition that in regard to the Pay Research Unit the Government have honoured the principle of fair comparisons. I think it is right and proper that this Government should do so.