HC Deb 25 February 1981 vol 999 cc877-80
56. Mr. Dormand

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what proposals he now has for transferring Civil Service posts to the Northern region.

Mr. Hayhoe

There are at present no plans to disperse Government offices beyond those announced by my predecessor on 26 July 1979.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware that the unemployment figures published yesterday indicate that the Northern region remains at the head of the unemployment league? Does he recall that when his Government came to power they immediately stopped the transfer of hundreds of jobs due to go to the region? Does he accept that the need for those jobs is greater than ever? If the Government are really concerned about the region, as they often say they are, does he agree that direct Government action on the transfer of Civil Service posts could lead to reduced unemployment immediately?

Mr. Hayhoe

We believe that no further dispersals should take place because of the publc expenditure implications of such dispersals. That does not mean that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment—who was answering questions yesterday on unemployment in the North-East—and the Government are not taking the appropriate measures. We do not think that the dispersal of further Civil Service jobs would be in the interests of the nation as a whole.

Mr. Richard Shepherd

Does my hon. Friend accept that before consideration of the transference of jobs, the procedures for reviewing pay should be clarified? If he accepts that, as he seemed to say earlier, why have the Government suspended pay research? Does not my hon. Friend's statement represent a significant shift in the Government's attitude in the face of determined and coherent wage—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman sure that his supplementary question is related to this question, or is it related to question No. 55?

Mr. Shepherd

I thought, Mr. Speaker, that we were talking about priorities.

Mr. Speaker

The question relates to the transfer of Civil Service posts to the Northern region.

Mr. Armstrong

Is the Minister aware that his reversal of the policy of the Labour Government is widening the gap between the deprived North and the affluent South? Will he bear in mind that well-qualified school leavers are denied the opportunity to enter the Civil Service because they have to come to London to join the career structure? This means more inefficiency, and unfairness to youngsters in the North.

Mr. Hayhoe

It was right to go back upon the Labour Government's dispersal policy, which seemed to be animated much more by political considerations than considerations of efficiency. It should be fully understood that 80 per cent, of the Civil Service is located outside Greater London. Four out of five civil servants work outside London.

Mr. Bill Walker

When Civil Service jobs are transferred to the Northern region or anywhere else and when civil servants refuse to move, will my hon. Friend confirm that they will be considered to have terminated their employment and that others wil be recruited locally?

Mr. Hayhoe

The requirements upon individual civil servants depend upon the grade and class of civil servant. Some are required to move by the terms of their contract of employment and others are not. We shall abide by their contracts.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Minister realise that the extra costs to which he referred earlier are entirely justified in regional policy terms and are minor compared with the massive public expenditure costs of unemployment in the regions? Will he bear in mind that there is bitterness in the Northern region, and in other regions which have lost jobs that were promised to them within the Civil Service, because, at a time when their traditional basic industries and newer manufacturing industries are being destroyed, they are being denied the opportunity of widening their employment base through employment in the Civil Service and public administration?

Mr. Hayhoe

The right hon. Gentleman should know that there is pressure from the areas where dispersal is taking place for that dispersal to be cancelled. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear last year that we would maintain the pregrammes that we announced.