HC Deb 18 July 1979 vol 970 cc1773-5
69. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he is satisfied with the progress made in reducing the size of the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement on the likely reduction in the next 12 months.

The Minister of State, Civil Service Department (Mr. Paul Channon)

Yes. Adjusted cash limits for 1979–80 were published on 26 June, which provide for a 3 per cent. cut in Civil Service staff costs subject to certain limited exemptions. As regards further reductions, I refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) on 11 June.

Mr. Hamilton

Can the hon. Gentleman give specific figures on specific Departments, namely, the DHSS and the Department of Employment? Is he aware that there are increasing complaints from beneficiaries of supplementary benefit, child benefits and the like of a deteriorating service as a direct consequence of the policy of suspending recruitment to these Departments but increasing recruitment of driving examiners? Is not this a disgraceful policy? Will the hon. Gentleman have another look at the two Departments to which I have referred, since reductions in personnel result in delays in benefit payments?

Mr. Channon

Limited exemptions are for my right hon. Friends who are in charge of the Departments concerned. I am surprised to hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I shall draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friends.

Mr. James A. Dunn

Is the Minister aware that the reorganisation of resources is causing great concern? How will this affect the dispersal systems that are now operative under the Hardman report?

Mr. Channon

If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, there is a later question on that very point.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Will my hon. Friend consider the case for extending for a full year the moratorium on recruitment into the administrative Civil Service?

Mr. Channon

I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. O'Neill

Is the Minister aware that the freeze on Civil Service recruitment has disbarred public servants from participation in the job release scheme? Is he aware that one in six of the initial applicants for the job release scheme came from the Civil Service, and that about 35,000 civil servants are at present eligible but are, in effect, being prevented from participating in this scheme? Will the hon. Gentleman continue with the simplistic approach towards allowing people to leave the Civil Service?

Mr. Channon

I have already said that the Government are examining the recruitment ban for future action. The job release scheme has had to be put in abeyance for civil servants, because it has not been possible to meet the conditions of filling vacancies from the unemployment register.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will the Minister confirm that he is at present reviewing cuts of 10 per cent., 15 per cent. and 20 per cent. in the level of expenditure in the Civil Service? Does this not mean, and will he make it clear when the announcement finally comes, that there will be substantial cuts in services and jobs? Does he accept that there will be stiff opposition from Labour Members to any such draconian cuts at a time of rising unemployment, and the utmost opposition to the cutting of central services for those who need protecting at a time of Government deflationary policies?

Mr. Channon

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. It is true that Departments have been asked to identify options for savings amounting to 10 per cent., 15 per cent. and 20 per cent. in their relevant expenditure, but no decisions have been taken and the Government will make a further statement in the autumn.