HC Deb 20 February 1978 vol 944 cc997-8
24. Mr. Canavan

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he next expects to meet representatives of the Civil Service employees to discuss job dispersal.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

I have no current plans to do so. My right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal met the National Staff Side on 1st February 1977. Departmental Ministers are in consultation with their individual staff sides and officials of my Department are in regular contact with the Staff Side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council.

Mr. Canavan

Will my right hon. Friend resist the pressures from a handful of senior civil servants who are trying to block the Government's plans to disperse jobs to Scotland in the hope that a change of Government will mean the complete scrapping of the programme? Will he assure these people that many of their fears about coming to Scotland are completely without foundation because there are many suitable office locations and many attractive working environments in, for example, central Scotland?

Mr. Morris

I welcome the opportunity of assuring my hon. Friend that the Government are conscious of the attractiveness of many geographical locations in Scotland in the context of Civil Service dispersal.

I do not accept that any civil servant, senior or otherwise, is determined to block the Government's policy of Civil Service dispersal. The Government remain fully committed to dispersing 30,000 civil servants from London and the South-East to new regional locations in the years ahead.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to remove some of the fears in Scotland that have arisen from the many delays to this programme and say when work will start on the building of the new Ministry of Defence in Glasgow? Until the building is seen, many of these fears will remain.

On a wider question, can the right hon. Gentleman say something to allay the concern of civil servants in Scotland that many Civil Service jobs there will be lost in the event of the Scottish nationalists having their way and Scotland becoming a separate State?

Mr. Morris

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will put down a separate Question on that last point because I want to deal with the main burden of his comment, which relates to the timetable for Civil Service dispersal to Scotland.

On 29th July 1977 the Lord Privy Seal outlined the time phasing for Civil Service dispersal, and the programme is going ahead on the basis of that timetable. There is no justification for anybody in Scotland to be anxious about this matter.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Is my right hon. Friend aware that what many of the civil servants in Scotland who are in favour of dispersal are looking for is some tangible evidence that a start will be made on the development of this process to Scotland, to Glasgow and to my constituency of East Kilbride? Will he take the opportunity of having a meeting with them to dispel their fears? They are being pushed by other members of the Civil Service to wait in case there is a change of Government.

Mr. Morris

I know that my hon. Friend has taken a consistent interest in the issue of Civil Service dispersal, and I am delighted to assure him that I stand ready to meet anybody in Scotland who has anxieties about Government policies on Civil Service dispersal.

Let me take up a point that I forgot to deal with in reply to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). He referred to the St. Enoch site in Glasgow. He knows that the site has now been cleared and that the money for the new building has been identified.