HC Deb 10 February 1982 vol 17 cc970-1
55. Mr. Wrigglesworth

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what are the responsibilities of the second permanent secretary in the Management and Personnel Office.

Mr. Hayhoe

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 12 November, the second permanent secretary, Mr. John Cassels, assists the permanent secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, in the business of the Management and Personnel Office, and details of the MPO's functions were set out in the note placed in the Library on that day.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Does the Minister agree that at least three permanent secretaries are now responsible for the Civil Service, and that two Departments are responsible for the Civil Service where there was one Department before? Does he agree that that is not a very efficient way to run the Civil Service and that it is not a good way to secure progressive personnel policies? Will he see whether a better and more efficient system can be found?

Mr. Hayhoe

The hon. Gentleman made that observation in the debate on the transfer of function orders on 20 January. It was wrong then, and it is wrong today.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the Minister explain what has happened to the action document that he promised, outlining the function and role of the new Management and Personnel Office? Is not the document already six weeks behind time, and is not the delay a recognition of the fact that, instead of resolving the old shortcomings of the Civil Service Department, the Government have created an administrative nightmare and now find it impossible to draw meaningful lines of demarcation between the Cabinet Office and the Treasury?

Mr. Hayhoe

The preparation of the action document by my right hon. and noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy is well in hand, and it will be made available to the Select Committee and others as soon as it is ready.

Mr. Eggar

Who is responsible within my hon. Friend's Department for checking the amount of time off that is permitted to civil servants to follow trade union activities? Are press reports correct that it costs £14 million? What steps will be taken to ensure that expenses of this kind are not incurred on behalf of taxpayers?

Mr. Hayhoe

All Ministers in charge of Departments take responsibility for the work of their Departments. Perhaps I should remind my hon. Friend that the facilities agreement under which time off is given to civil servants to be involved in industrial relations matters was made in 1974. It has been and is under review by the Government. It is also important to note that there are legal requirements for such time off to be given. Clearly it is important that the Government, as an employer, meet their legal requirements.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

Is it not clear that the recent changes in the Civil Service are designed to discipline it rather than to improve it

Mr. Hayhoe

No. That suggestion has no foundation.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We now return to Transport Questions.

Mr. Sheerman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can it be right that my question 56, which was tabled to the Minister for the Civil Service, can be transferred to another Department without the Member being informed

Mr. Speaker

Is is customary to inform hon. Members, but will the hon. Member allow questions to continue and raise the matter with me later, because, in any case, the question on the Order Paper is addressed to the Secretary of State for Industry. I do not know what has happened.

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