HC Deb 21 May 1980 vol 985 cc502-3
56. Mr. Canavan

asked the Minister for the Civil Service whether he will meet representatives of Civil Service trade unions to discuss staffing levels in the Civil Service.

Mr. Channon

I have met representatives of the Civil Service trade unions twice in the last few weeks to discuss staffing levels. I am very willing to meet them again if they wish it.

Mr. Canavan

What is the sense in deliberately creating more unemployment by making thousands of civil servants redundant, then perhaps having to employ an extra 7,000 civil servants in order to deal with the extra people out of work?

Mr. Channon

There is no intention of making thousands of civil servants redundant. I have already made clear that we believe that the changes in the Civil Service can be achieved with a minimum of compulsory redundancies. Therefore, the hon. Member's premise is wholly wrong.

Mr. Budgen

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is inconsistent to try to cut staff numbers in the Civil Service while at the same time trying to attract more civil servants by applying the principle of comparability?

Mr. Channon

I note my hon. Friend's views. I have nothing to add to my earlier answer about comparability. However, I assure my hon. Friend that we are determined to achieve a smaller Civil Service so that the country as a whole—and I believe that the majority of my hon. Friends share the aspiration—feels that it is getting value for money for the work that the Civil Service does.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

When the Minister next meets Civil Service union leaders will he try to find out why in 1980 it takes four to five weeks for the assistant to the assistant to the assistant of a Minister's private secretary to forward a letter, when, 30 or 40 years ago, it took only three to four days?

Mr. Channon

I shall make a point of mentioning that at my next meeting with the Civil Service unions. However, I feel that some union leaders may say that they are over-burdened by the hon. Gentleman's written questions.