HC Deb 05 November 1980 vol 991 cc1283-6
41. Mr. Chapman

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what is the number of non-industrial and industrial civil servants; and how these figures compare with mid-1979.

46. Mr. Wrigglesworth

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what are the latest totals of industrial and non-industrial civil servants employed by Her Majesty's Government.

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

On 1 October 1980, there were 543,200 non-industrial and 153,900 industrial staff in post, a reduction of 17,000 and 9,600 respectively compared with 1 July 1979.

Mr. Chapman

Are those reductions in line with the planned reductions announced in the Prime Minister's statement in the summer? Given the annual turnover in the Civil Service, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the planned reduction overall, to 630,000 by 1983–84, can be achieved without any redundancies?

Mr. Channon

These figures are in line with the statement in May of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It remains the Government's firm aim to achieve the figures by April 1984. I cannot say that there will be no redundancies. We are certainly not looking for compulsory redundancies and I hope that there will be very few.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Is the Minister aware of the impact which these policies are having on the morale of the Civil Service? In the light of the present low morale there, how can he justify the strict pay policy which is being introduced for the Government's own employees, with the suspension of the Pay Research Unit, and in the light of the fact that there is no pay policy from the Government for any other sector throughout the country?

Mr. Channon

This question relates to manpower. It has nothing to do with pay. But, in view of what the hon. Gentleman says, I should have thought that it was common ground, certainly among large sections in the House, that in the national interest it was obviously wise that in the public sector we should try to have settlements as low as possible.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reductions made so far in the Civil Service do not seem to be in extent anything like the redundancies in the private manufacturing sector? Is not this serious imbalance a very great drawback in the nation's recovery?'

Mr. Channon

I hope that my hon. Friend will agree that our aim to get the Civil Service down to the lowest figures for 40 years by April 1984 represents quite a reasonable achievement. I hope that he will think that it is sensible for the Government to aim to do that in the next two or three years.

Mr. Eastham

Does the Minister recognise that, in view of the Government's current policies and with ever-increasing unemployment, 586,000 additional people on the dole will entail extra work and responsibilities for civil servants? Are not the Government contributing towards that problem?

Mr. Channon

Of course there will be extra work for civil servants if unemployment remains at a high level, but I have taken that fully into account in announcing the figures for the size of the Civil Service.

42. Mr. Marlow

asked the Minister for the Civil Service how the number of civil servants compares with that on 3 May 1979; how many Civil Service jobs have been turned over to the private sector; and at what cost.

Mr. Channon

On 1 April 1979, the nearest date for which figures are available, there were 732,300 civil servants as compared with 697,100 on 1 October 1980. Very few Civil Service jobs have been transferred to the private sector in this period.

Mr. Marlow

For those civil servants who remain in post, will my right hon. Friend introduce a pay policy similar to that which is being put forward by Rolls Royce—a nil norm, plus increases related only to productivity? Will he scotch, once and for all, the figures going around of 8 per cent. or 9 per cent. at a time when people in manufacturing industry, which produces the wealth that pays for the Civil Service, are taking wage settlements far below those figures?

Mr. Channon

I note what my hon. Friend says. My right and noble Friend the Lord President made it clear as long ago as August that next year the cash limit would be the major determinant of Civil Service pay. I shall certainly bear what my hon. Friend says in mind. So far, no cash limit has been set.

Mr. English

Since the definition of "civil servant" is so artificial, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could give us the number of Crown servants and servants of Crown corporations, excluding those in the market sector. The figure should be something approaching 2 million.

Mr. Channon

I am afraid that I could not do that without notice. What I think the House is interested in is to see the figures on a like-with-like basis over the months, so that it can compare what is being achieved and what is not being achieved.

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government have completely abandoned the principle of comparability in pay awards in the public sector? If that is so, does he agree that it will have the effect of making the private sector more attractive and thus ultimately reducing the number of civil servants?

Mr. Channon

I can speak only for the Civil Service, and not for the whole public sector. What the Government have done is to suspend pay research for 1981. No decisions have been taken about later years. We are discussing at present improvements to the pay research system with the Council of Civil Service Unions. Decisions will be arrived at in due course. However, I certainly take note of what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Straw

Is it not a fact that, on the question of numbers, much of the reduction in Civil Service staff has been offset by an increase, for example, in the number of people employed by get-rich-quick private cleaning contractors? Why has the Minister not produced a proper estimate, in answer to this question, of the number of jobs now being done in the private sector which were previously done in the public sector?

Mr. Channon

Because the number is so very small. [Interruption.] What I have already promised the Select Committee—and the House can have it if it likes—is that we shall make a quarterly return of those figures. So far, they have been so small that it has not been worth making such a return.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Is the Minister aware, however, of the serious allegations being made about the activities of some of these contractors that have been employed by the Government—that they are employing children and that they are evading taxes, and other allegations about the cleaning of Government Departments? Does he agree that it is quite wrong to be declaring cleaners in Government Departments redundant and then bringing in bucket-shop operations to take over those jobs? What will he do to stop it?

Mr. Channon

It is not for me to decide the cleaning arrangements for each Government Department. It is up to each Department to make its own arrangements in the most economical way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] What I am saying is correct. It is for each Government Department to decide; it is not for me to lay down a central rule. If the hon. Member has allegations to make against any firm that is operating in a Government Department, I hope that he will take them up with the Minister responsible.