HC Deb 05 November 1980 vol 991 cc1273-5
14. Mr. Heddle

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the introduction of further measures to reduce Civil Service staff in his Department.

Mr. Fowler

We plan to make a reduction of 2,645 staff by 1 April 1984. This is equivalent to some 19 per cent. of staff in post on 1 March 1979. In addition, major changes planned in the road construction sub-units will result in a contraction of 1,600 in the staff on the payroll of my Department. On this basis there will in all be a reduction of nearly 30 per cent. But I shall continue the search for further savings.

Mr. Heddle

I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply. Would it be possible for him to project the likely additional staff savings to 1984? Will he indicate to the House whether the sale of heavy vehicle testing stations at some time in the future would have any effect on the figures?

Mr. Fowler

The savings from the policy on HGV testing stations is taken account of in the figures that I have just given to my hon. Friend.

Mr. John Evans

Will not the reduction of staff in the road construction units be more than matched by an increase in staff from private contractors, probably at great expense to the taxpayer?

Mr. Fowler

I am glad to tell the House that we have had about 100 proposals from consultants on the work that they want to take over. The work that they will be taking over will, of course, include the criteria for choosing consultants. and also criteria on the staff. We believe that it is better for the road building programme and for the country generally that there should be this shift from public to private enterprise.

Mr. Thompson

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the support on the Conservative Benches for his closing of many of the road construction units? Will he make sure that he is not deflected in any way from this plan?

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I believe that the arrangements that we have are to the benefit not only of the taxpayer and the country generally, but, in the long term, of the staff who are involved.

Mr. Park

When considering the privatisation of heavy goods vehicle testing, will the Minister take note of the fact that the people who operate the heavy goods vehicles are extremely dubious about handing over the testing to private enterprise, as they feel that they would not get the same impartial judgment that they get in the present circumstances?

Mr. Fowler

I understand the concern. One of the reasons for it is, I believe, a misunderstanding of what is being proposed. What we are proposing is that the purely mechanical process of the annual check should go to the private sector. We shall, of course, continue to set the standards and to operate by our own staff the policing function of spot checks. I do not think that note has been taken of that point.