HC Deb 29 January 1981 vol 997 cc1071-2
Q3. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the evidence given by the Secretary to the Cabinet, Sir Derek Rayner and others to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee, she intends to proceed with the reabsorption of the Civil Service Department into the Treasury.

The Prime Minister

I have studied the Treasury and Civil Service Committee's report on this subject closely, and shall be publishing the Government's response to it shortly. I can, however, tell my hon. Friend today that I have decided to strengthen and improve the existing organisation of the CSD rather than merge the two Departments.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. In the light of that, can she tell us what we can do to restore to the Treasury that measure of control over good housekeeping by the great spending Departments of State which they lost when the Civil Service Department took charge of promotion at the top end of the Civil Service? Is it not less than coincidental that, since the establishment of the Civil Service Department, public expenditure has spiralled out of control?

The Prime Minister

I should not necessarily agree with the coincidence to which my hon. Friend refers. I started off being marginally in favour of merging the two Departments but came to the conclusion that if we were to do that, all concentration would go on reorganisation rather than on dealing with the true problem, which my hon. Friend correctly defines as the effective control of public spending. The Select Committee's report had some suggestions to make about that, and we hope to take up some of them, because it is vital that we have that control. As for promotion, the topmost appointments come to both the Secretary of State for the Department concerned and to the Prime Minister of the day. It is important that we put in charge of those Departments people who insist on proper control of public spending and effective value for money.

Mr. Skinner

Does that mean that "Yes Minister" has won again?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that "Yes Minister" refers to my Administration.

Mr. Wilkinson

As First Lady of the Treasury, does my right hon. Friend agree that the Treasury would be best pleased if the Ministry of Defence did not move 1,400 civil servants from London to Glasgow, at a cost of about £50 million, at a time when the Minister of Defence cannot for the time being support the development of the Jetstream 31 communications aeroplane in Scotland?

The Prime Minister

There are always conflicting interests in trying to move civil servants from London to other parts of the United Kingdom. We have taken the view that it is right, in view of Scotland's economy, to transfer some posts. I believe that there are good reasons for the transfer to go ahead. Although I accept my hon. Friend's point that it will mean some increase in public spending, it will also give some hope to the people of Scotland.