HC Deb 16 January 1978 vol 942 cc21-2
21. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Minister for the Civil Service how many independent members, apart from the chairman, will now be appointed to the Pay Research Unit drawn from outside the Civil Service.

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

The chairman and four out of 10 members of the Pay Research Unit Board will be appointed from outside the Civil Service. Only the outside members will have voting rights. A proportion of the staff within the unit will also be recruited from outside the Civil Service.

Mr. Renton

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is there not a danger of creating a smokescreen over this exercise by setting up a new supervisory board, to which independent members will be appointed, while leaving all the executive powers with the PRU itself, which will still have a civil servant as director? Is it not necessary that it should be seen that, say, 50 per cent. of the members of the PRU should be other than civil servants and that the director of the unit himself should not be a civil servant?

Mr. Morris

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's argument. This is not an exercise in creating a smokescreen. The Government and the Civil Service unions have agreed on a comprehensive system for demonstrating the independence and impartiality of the Pay Research Unit procedure. The board of the PRU will itself have an independent element. The unit will report to the PRU Board, which will have a formidable independent element.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether there is any possibility, despite the setting up of the new unit, of getting an updating of the previous figures produced by the PRU? Does he not agree with me that it would be unfair on civil servants this year if they did not get pay settlements which bore at least some resemblance to settlements outside the public service?

Mr. Morris

I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern and the concern of civil servants generally. As I have explained previously, however, the PRU procedure takes over 12 months to carry out a full pay research exercise. The updating of current figures would not be practicable in that context.

Mr. Hayhoe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we attach very high importance to the question of the independence of the PRU? Can he give some indication of what proportion of the PRU staff he expects to be recruited from outside the Civil Service?

Mr. Morris

At present we are hoping to recruit initially four of the 23 survey officers of the PRU itself. We are also hoping to recruit almost immediately an additional four technical advisers to the unit. Here again, even for the staffing of the unit we are concerned to introduce the independent element. The PRU Board, to which the unit will report, will comprise an independent chairman, four independent members, two official members, two members sponsored by the Civil Service unions and the director of the unit, who will be ex officio.