HC Deb 21 June 1976 vol 913 cc1089-90
26. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Minister for the Civil Service whether he is reviewing the arrangements for incremental increases in Civil Service pay in the light of the new 4½ per cent. pay agreement.

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

In his statement to the House on 5th May 1976 my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear that the rules that applied during the period of the £6 limit, including those governing the general position on increments, would continue to apply. The arrangements that will be applied to the Civil Service will be as required by the policy and will therefore be exactly the same as those applying to all other groups with established incremental systems in both the public and private sectors.

Mr. Renton

Would it not be helpful to the House if the Minister were more clear and said whether, in the coming year, civil servants will receive annual increments on top of the pay limit increase? If they do, is it not the case that a senior executive officer in Whitehall, for example, will get about £8 a week more, as opposed to the £4 a week pay increase limit? Is this not grossly unfair, and does it not account for part of the rise in the non-industrial Civil Service at the present time?

Mr. Morris

I do not accept that the payment of increments for civil servants, or, indeed, workers and staff in the private sector, is unfair in any way. Civil servants are being treated no better and no worse than are any other sections of the working community, in either the public or the private sector.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is one further example of the way in which the Civil Service is being sniped at by members of the Opposition? A further example appeared in The Sunday Times yesterday, in respect of their pension rights. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that no changes in the pension rights for civil servants will be introduced without the fullest consultation with the Civil Service unions? Is my hon. Friend aware that if he opens this Pandora's Box all sorts of difficulties may pop out if pensions are to be linked with pay, because the Government may want to switch back when pay starts rising at a rapid rate again?

Mr. Morris

I assure my hon. Friend that I shall resist any temptation to open any Pandora's Box as far as Civil Service pensions are concerned. I can give him an assurance that my right hon. and noble Friend and myself are conscious of the need to consult the staff side on this vital and crucial issue.

Mr. Lawson

Will the Minister now answer the question that the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) put to him? Is there any truth in the leak, contained in yesterday's Sunday Times, to the effect that he and his legal advisers are anxiously looking for any means, short of repealing the Pensions Increase Act 1971, by which they could reduce the enormous cost, of well over £100 million, of implementing index-linked pension increases for public servants this December?

Mr. Morris

As the hon. Gentleman already knows, and as I have said in the House, of course the Government are examining the situation in respect of the inflation-proofing of civil servants' pensions.

Mr. Renton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.