HC Deb 03 June 1981 vol 5 cc922-3
57. Mr. Viggers

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if she will institute a study of conditions of service of those civil servants employed by the Ministry of Defence.

The Minister of State, Civil Service Department (Mr. Barney Hayhoe)

No, as I do not believe one is required.

Mr. Viggers

Does my hon. Friend agree that the overwhelming majority of industrial and professional civil servants respect their special position and the special duty they have to Government, and believe that the Government's attitude to their pay is fair? Does my hon. Friend further agree that under the previous Labour Government the pay restrictions held back the pay of those working for the Ministry of Defence to a shameful degree, and that they have benefited to a lesser extent than most civil servants from pay increases since that time? Does he accept that other civil servants should bear that in mind in the making of a global settlement of Civil Service pay?

Mr. Hayhoe

The House would do well to note that the vast majority of industrial civil servants—and, indeed the vast majority of all civil servants—are working normally and keeping the work of their Departments and the Government going. In the Ministry of Defence, only a very small minority of people are taking disruptive action, and I hope that they will soon totally desist.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the Minister feel that he needs to initiate a study of the whole Civil Service? How much longer is the dispute to be allowed to drag on, particularly when the unions are crying out for a reasonable settlement, and, due to the Government's obstinacy, moderates are being turned into——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is anticipating other questions that are on the Order Paper and will, I hope, shortly be answered.

Mr. Neubert

If it is unacceptable for our Armed Forces to go on strike, is it not equally unacceptable for civil servants, employed by the Ministry of Defence and capable of reducing our defences, also to go on strike? Should not a no-strike agreement be negotiated with them before very much longer?

Mr. Hayhoe

There is a clear distinction between civilian employees of the Ministry of Defence and members of the Armed Forces, and many different conditions apply to their work. I have already made clear to the House that I can see the desirability in principle of no-strike agreements. The Government are ready to discuss with the unions the possibility of achieving no-strike agreements.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Minister recollect that, after the sacking of the Ministry of Defence cleaners at Bath, the contract cleaners who were taken on were subsequently accused of defrauding both the national insurance authorities and the Inland Revenue? Will he tell the House why the outcome of the Government's investigation into that allegation has never been revealed—in particular, not to this House—and why the company has never been prosecuted? Does it not seem an odd sense of justice that people have rightly been prosecuted for drawing social security benefits while working for contract cleaners in Birmingham, whereas the company which has been working for the Ministry of Defence in Bath has not been prosecuted for defrauding two Government Departments?

Mr. Hayhoe

As I told the right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion he asked this question, it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.