HC Deb 25 November 1981 vol 13 cc887-8
61. Mr. Straw

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when she will next be meeting trade union representatives on the pay and conditions of the Civil Service.

62. Mr. Canavan

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when she next expects to meet trade union representatives of the Civil Service to discuss Civil Service salaries.

Mr. Hayhoe

I am, of course, always ready to meet Civil Service union representatives whenever this is necessary. No meetings are at present arranged.

Mr. Straw

Will the Minister, in advance of any meeting that is held, take the opportunity today to confirm that, despite the changes in the arrangements for Civil Service management within the Government, the undertakings given to the Civil Service after the dispute, that pay negotiations would not be constrained by the 4 per cent. cash limit and that the Civil Service could go to arbitration in 1982, still stand?

Mr. Hayhoe

I can give the hon. Gentleman the two assurances that he requires concerning negotiations in 1982. The negotiations will take place without a predetermined cash limit, and there will be recourse to arbitration if the negotiations fail, subject to the parliamentary override in the terms that were set out. Those assurances still stand and are unaffected in any way by the reorganisation of central Departments that was announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister a short time ago.

Mr. Canavan

Is the Minister aware that, if the Government try to force the 4 per cent. settlement on the Civil Service, it will mean a 12 per cent. reduction in living standards over a two-year period? Will he therefore give us an assurance that there will be genuine free negotiations with the trade unions, rather than an attempt by the Government rigidly to impose a predetermined pay norm, which would attack living standards, particularly of the lower-paid workers in the Civil Service?

Mr. Hayhoe

The 4 per cent. pay factor announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer some weeks ago is not a pay norm. It is a broad measure of what the Government believe can be afforded for pay increases in the public services as a whole. Some increases may be less, and some may be more. Each must be justified on its merits. As I have said, the assurance that there will be negotiations without a predetermined cash limit for the Civil Service still stands.

Mr. Hordern

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the 4 per cent. cash limit for wages will not necessarily apply to the Civil Service? If that is so, to whom will it apply?

Mr. Hayhoe

The 4 per cent. is not a cash limit, as I have just said. It is a pay factor.

Mr. Joel Barnett

In that case, on what basis would arbitration take place?

Mr. Hayhoe

It would take place on the basis that if the negotiations that were taking place failed to provide agreement the Government would accept recourse to the Civil Service arbitration tribunal, but on the understanding that the Government reserve the right, if necessary, to ask the House to approve setting aside the tribunal's awards on the ground of overriding national policy.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Minister not realise that the transfer of his departmental responsibility to the Treasury has been a further major blow to morale in the Civil Service and that it has completely undermined the value of the assurances obtained in the last pay round about going to arbitration? Does he accept that there is now grave doubt about the Government's objectivity in this respect?

Mr. Hayhoe

I do not accept that statement as a reasonable appraisal of the view held in the Civil Service. Obviously, the changes in the organisation of the central Departments have been used by some people to put forward a point of view for which there is no foundation at all, namely, that we are resiling from the assurances that were given. Those assurances still stand.

Mr. Woolmer

Does not the oustanding £6 billion in uncollected revenue show the importance of getting Civil Service pay and conditions back on to an agreed basis? In the light of that, when does the Minister hope to see the Megaw inquiry report? Does he still hope that it will be produced in time for it to be brought into effect for the pay round in the spring of 1983?

Mr. Hayhoe

The Government have asked the Megaw inquiry to report, if possible, by the summer of next year, so that arrangements can be in place to deal with the 1983 negotiations. The amount of outstanding revenue shows the damage done to the country by what I still believe was the wholly unjustified action that civil servants took in striking and taking disruptive action earlier this year.