HC Deb 18 May 1976 vol 911 cc1207-9
Q3. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to the Civil Service College in Edinburgh.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the enforced closure of the Civil Service College in Edinburgh, which is very highly regarded throughout Great Britain, would cause great resentment in Scotland and would be completely inconsistent with the Government's devolution proposals?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the work done by this college in Edinburgh. The proposals are part of a study being made by the Government with a view to saving a great deal of money—£140 million—on Civil Service manpower and expenditure. Every cut that we make will be painful, and each will have supporters. I want to end the uncertainty of the staff, but I cannot do so yet because this is one of a number of propositions under examination. I fully realise the value of this college, but if we are to save this money a number of valuable elements will have to go. It is something I regret, but it will be necessary.

Mr. Sillars

If the Prime Minister cannot pay a visit to the Civil Service College, will he go to Moray House and other teacher training colleges in Scotland, where students are beginning to sit in against the cuts in education expenditure and the loss of job opportunities? Will he also explain to those students and the Scottish public how it is that after the autumn we shall reach the absurd position in which inadequately-educated schoolchildren are standing in the same dole queues as trained but unemployed teachers?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman wants a detailed answer to that question, he should put it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who will give him such a reply. I am replying to a Question on the Civil Service College. In regard to educational expenditure in Scotland, have been looking at this matter and at the possible cuts that might be made. The statistics being bandied about do not bear the weight being placed on them by some hon. Members.

Mr. Donald Stewart

As this Government. like their Conservative predecessors, are committed to the transfer of thousands of Civil Service jobs from London to Scotland, will the Prime Minister tell us why there should be any doubt about this college, which employs 130 people?

The Prime Minister

The proposals to transfer large numbers of civil servants from the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Overseas Development go on. There is no interference with them. They will take place. But I say to the hon. Gentleman—many a mickle makes a muckle. It is by adding up all these 130s that one arrives at a vast total. In order that there is no misunderstanding, I should explain that this is one of many proposals on which no decision has yet been taken. All the considerations being advanced by hon. Members will be taken into account.

Mr. William Hamilton

Has my right hon. Friend any evidence that there is an increasing reluctance of civil servants, faced with the possibility of devolution legislation, to move north of the border?

The Prime Minister

I have not yet found any such reluctance. Many of the students at the Civil Service College come from south of the border and are not Scottish.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Prime Minister realise that if the Government's proposals for devolution are implemented in their present form, there will be at least 1,000 extra civil servants to service the Assembly? Can the Prime Minister explain how this will be feasible if the college closes?

The Prime Minister

The two things do not necessarily go together. I recognise that devolution of real powers to Scotland will mean an increase in the number of civil servants. This is one of the issues that the House must face. I understand the hon. Gentleman's difficulties. I read his letter in The Times today. He is trying to paper over the cracks in the Opposition. I suggest that he goes on trying, but I do not think that he will have much success.

Forward to