HC Deb 07 April 1982 vol 21 cc948-50
43. Mr. Eggar

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if she will make a statement on the response to the report of the Treasury and Civil Service Committee on efficiency and effectiveness in the Civil Service.

45. Mr. Marlow

asked the Minister for the Civil Service is she will make a statement on the efficiency of the Civil Service central departments.

Mr. Hayhoe

The Government are giving this wide-ranging report the closest attention. A full reply, including our response to the recommendations on the role of the central departments, will be made in due course.

Mr. Eggar

Has my hon. Friend noted the reports that the Committee made about the MINIS arrangment, developed within the Department of the Environment? Has he also noticed that the Committee was completely unconvinced by evidence that it received from other Departments to the effect that the MINIS operation did not happen to be suitable for the particular Department, for one reason or another?

Mr. Hayhoe

Yes, I have noted what the Committee had to say on the matter. I believe that every Department should have a management information system appropriate to the functions and needs of the Department concerned.

Mr. Marlow

As a major employer with a branch in Northampton has been forced by the recession to reduce his labour force by 40 per cent. yet is still able to produce the same output as before, and as he is concerned about the overheads that he has to bear from central and local government, does my hon. Friend believe that a 40 per cent. reduction in Civil Service central departments would be a useful target? What does he believe we could achieve if we could do that?

Mr. Hayhoe

The Prime Minister has set a target for reducing the size of the Civil Service to its lowest level since the end of the war. The target to be achieved is 630,000 by April 1984. I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in congratulating all those concerned on seeing that we are absolutely on course for that target.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does not the Select Committee recommendation that the Government should pay more attention to effectiveness than to the narrower issue of manpower numbers really put in another way what the Opposition have been saying since the Government came to office, that the cuts being made are often at the expense of essential services to the most needy groups in our society?

Mr. Hayhoe

No. I presume that the Select Committee said what it meant to say. That interpretation cannot be read out of the recommendations that it made. It is necessary to increase efficiency, improve cost-effectiveness and give better value for money in the Civil Service.

Mr. Whitney

As a contribution to improving the efficiency of the Civil Service, will my hon. Friend consider the possibility of including on the confidential report form a section that allows an assessment of an individual officer's effectiveness in conserving the use of public resources?

Mr. Hayhoe

Changes are being made to the annual confidential report form. Managerial ability and concern about cost-effectiveness ought to be reflected in an individual's annual report.

Mr. Cryer

Is not this reduction in the Civil Service being carried out in the manner of wielding a blunderbuss?

Is not the Minister ashamed that he has placed on the dole 26 civil servants working for the export film unit of the COI? This film unit has won international prizes. The reward is that its members are put on the dole by the Minister, due to the blunderbuss approach that he has chosen to use. Is the Minister aware that these civil servants do not fall within the terms that the Prime Minister has used and that they deserve better treatment? Will he institute an inquiry to see whether they are cost-effective, which they believe to be the case?

Mr. Hayhoe

The hon. Gentleman, who, along with one of his hon. Friends, came with a deputation from the union concerned, knows, if he understands the facts of the matter, that what he says is not true. What is happening will be cost-effective. It will accord with good managerial considerations. I believe that the union concerned would be better employed in ceasing to misrepresent the facts of the matter.

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