HC Deb 03 July 1978 vol 953 cc19-22
25. Mr. Skinner

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he next expects to meet leaders of the Civil Service trade unions.

34. Mr. Molloy

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he expects next to meet the representatives of Civil Service trade unions.

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

I am in regular contact with representatives of the Civil Service unions.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Minister discuss with the trade unions the question of who decides the so-called "first division" of the Civil Service—the top 3,000 or so? Is he aware that between 1971 and 1975 the number of applicants from Oxford and Cambridge was 25 per cent. of those applying, yet more than 50 per cent. were accepted? This is bound to be the case when there is a majority of full-time civil servants on the selection panel. Will the Minister tell the Prime Minister, who seems to be drawing up the Labour Party manifesto these days, that we want to see a greater degree of accountability and democracy in the selection of these top posts?

Mr. Morris

On the selection of entrants to the administrative trainee grade of the Civil Service, I accept my hon. Friend's general contention that there appears to be a statistical bias in favour of what I would call Oxbridge entrants. But the fact remains that, while not all of our most able people come from Oxford and Cambridge, the figures provided for the Expenditure Sub-Committee demonstrate that these universities still attract more than their share of able school leavers, measured by A-level grades obtained. I am satisfied that the Civil Service Commission operates in a wholly impartial manner in the selection process.

Mr. Molloy

When my right hon. Friend next meets the Civil Service staff side and the Civil Service Union in particular, will he have further discussions on the subject of dispersal? This is causing a great deal of concern particularly among those civil servants who must uproot their homes to go to other parts of the country. Often they have teenage children and are moving to areas of high unemployment. Their movement there does not help to create employment. Will my right hon. Friend have more talks and ensure that people are able to volunteer whenever they can to take part in dispersal operations?

Mr. Morris

I am happy to meet any of the Civil Service unions on the question of dispersal. I understand the difficulties for individual civil servants in London and the South-East, but I assure my hon. Friend that it is hoped that Government policy will operate on a wholly voluntary service.

Mr. Rhodes James

First, may I say that we are all very pleased that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has returned? He has a great deal of respect and affection on this side of the House. Does the Minister agree that a well-paid, fairly-treated and respected Civil Service with a high morale is vital to the economic revival of this country, particularly in the elimination of waste in public expenditure? Is he aware that many hon. Members on this side of the House share his concern about the maintenance and expansion of an efficient and high-morale Civil Service?

Mr. Morris

I am very grateful for the hon. Member's comments. I share his views about the wholly regrettable absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). However, my hon. Friend is here so often that I did not notice that he had been away.

Mr. Speaker

Without offence to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), I want to second what has been said by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James).

Mr. Ioan Evans

When my right hon. Friend meets the Civil Service trade union leaders, will he allay the fears aroused by the Leader of the Opposition that a future Conservative Government would be prepared to restrict Civil Service and public service wages but to leave the private sector alone? Although this is an academic proposal, I still hope that my right hon. Friend will allay their fears.

Mr. Morris

I feel that the Leader of the Opposition made a monumental gaffe in her Penistone speech when she outlined the Tory Party's approach to pay policy and suggested that the Civil Service, the nationalised industries and the public sector generally should be restrained by strict cash limits. That policy would involve double standards and discrimination against 6 million workers.

Mr. Tim Renton

In his discussions with the relevant trade union leaders, has the Minister given thought to the question whether Civil Service inflation-proof pensions should be funded? These pensions form an increasingly important part of the total remuneration of civil servants. Is it not an anomaly that they are not funded for civil servants but are funded for local authorities' and nationalised industries' employees?

Mr. Morris

I do not wholly accept that it is anomaly as such. It is true that Civil Service pensions are not funded, but I do not think that that is an anomaly.