HC Deb 23 February 1976 vol 906 cc18-20
28. Mr. Pattie

asked the Minister for the Civil Service whether he will make a statement on his recent discussions with the Civil Service unions about possible reductions in the size of the Civil Service.

34. Mr. Wrigglesworth

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on Civil Service manpower cuts.

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

I made a comprehensive statement in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) during the Adjournment debate on 5th February. My right hon. and noble Friend and I saw members of the National Staff Side on 9th February, and the general import of what we then said followed the remarks that I made during that Adjournment debate.

Since then, the Public Expenditure White Paper has been published. This shows the extent of the proposed reductions, expressed in financial terms.

I have, at this stage, nothing further to add.

Mr. Pattie

Now that the White Paper on Public Expenditure has been published, presumably the Minister can deal with actual figures. Does he agree that the forecast indicates a reduction of 30,000 civil servants by the start of 1978? Can he reconcile that forecast with the news that his Department is contemplating an increase in the number of civil servants in the immediate future?

Mr. Morris

Yes, Sir. The White Paper on Public Expenditure indicated that the Government proposed a cut of £140 million in Civil Service manpower levels and staffing, which can be interpreted in a variety of ways. As I said in the recent Adjournment debate, at this stage we are not embarked on immediate cuts in the Civil Service. For some time yet the number of civil servants is likely to increase. Against the background of £140 million, we are embarked on a thorough review of all aspects of work in the Civil Service.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Has my right hon. Friend seen the apparently authoritative and full report in The Times this morning about manpower cuts in the Civil Service? Is he aware that reports of this sort cause considerable concern amongst civil servants, and will he ensure that information of this kind is brought properly to the House or the Whitley Council?

Mr. Morris

I share the anxieties of my hon. Friend in this regard. Anxiety amongst civil servants arises from certain Press reports that have appeared recently. I emphasise that at present we are not embarked on any arbitrary cuts. The White Paper on Public Expenditure referred to the year 1977–78.

Mr. Rost

As 8,000 civil servants are being employed at the new computerised Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre at Swansea, will 8,000 civil servants employed in local county motor tax collecting centres be made redundant?

Mr. Morris

That question is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.