HC Deb 16 June 1982 vol 25 cc945-7
43. Mr. Parry

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what matters will be discussed at the next meeting with trade union representatives of the Civil Service.

45. Mr. Canavan

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what subjects she expects to discuss at the next meeting with trade union representatives of the Civil Service.

46. Mr. Cryer

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what subjects she expects to discuss at the next meeting with Civil Service trade unions.

48. Mr. Marlow

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what subjects she proposes to discuss with Civil Service trade unions when she next meets them.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Barney Hayhoe)

I have no plans at present to meet the Civil Service unions. However, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary and I met them last week to discuss Civil Service manpower matters, and my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal also met representatives of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants last week to discuss the management of accountants in the Civil Service.

Mr. Parry

When the Minister next meets the Civil Service unions, will he try to explain the Government's double standards on pay and priorities in the public sector? Will he also try to equate the increases awarded to senior civil servants and judges with the paltry offer that has been made to nurses and other public employees in the Health Service, who are being forced to take industrial action to earn a living wage?

Mr. Hayhoe

I repudiate any suggestion of double standards. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at the Top Salaries Review Body report, as well as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's response to it, he will see that his allegations are wholly unjustifed.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call first the three hon. Members whose questions are being answered with this one.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Minister congratulate the leadership of the CPSA on urging its members to strike in sympathy with the Health Service workers next Wednesday? Where is the justice of the wages policy of this Tory Government? They expect the lower ranks of the Civil Service, the Health Service workers and the nurses to accept wage increases that are well below the rate of inflation, while at the same time they propose to dish out increases well in advance of the rate of inflation to people such as those in the senior ranks of the Civil Service, judges, generals and admirals.

Mr. Hayhoe

I deplore the advice given by Alistair Graham, the general secretary of the CPSA. I remind CPSA members that, under the Employment Act 1980, lawful industrial picketing may be undertaken only in contemplation or furtherance of a trades dispute. Furthermore, it can be carried out only by a person attending at or near his place of work. I hope that all those who are the recipients of that advice will carefully consider the law on such matters.

Mr. Cryer

How can the Minister deny double standards? Does he not realise that civil servants on the lower rates of pay have to go to arbitration to get anything at all? Nurses and other Health Service workers who take home £50 or £60 a week are appalled when those earning £35,000 a year and upwards, such as senior civil servants, receive an 18 per cent. increase without asking for it because a few of their chums on the Top Salaries Review Body say that they deserve it? People feel outraged at those double standards. That is why the miners and the civil servants have made a principled decision not to go on strike for themselves but for other people. Surely" that is the sort of thing that workers should recognise as being the way to support the struggle.

Mr. Hayhoe

Again, I reject these suggestions completely. If the hon. Gentleman would study these matters and look at the reality behind them, rather than seek to make cheap party political points, matters might improve.

Mr. Marlow

I wonder whether my hon. Friend could enhance the job satisfaction of those in senior positions in the Civil Service by giving them the same job security as that enjoyed by their brothers and cousins in industry. If they were not up to it, they could be removed and other people could be more rapidly promoted. Surely that would stimulate those who want to do a good job in the Civil Service.

Mr. Hayhoe

My hon. Friend should know that the Wardale report, which deals with the open structure of the Civil Service, is now under active consideration. The number of top posts in the Civil Service has been reduced by a slightly higher percentage than that for the Civil Service as a whole, and the number of top posts in the Civil Service is now under further consideration with a view to reducing the number.

Mr. Woolmer

Recognising the concern felt by civil servants over the way in which their pay has been dealt with over the past two years, can the Minister say whether the Megaw report is expected before the House rises for the Summer Recess and whether it will be debated fully in the House? Does he hope to be able to implement any of its suggestions in time for the next pay round?

Mr. Hayhoe

The Megaw committee was asked to report by the summer and I have no information to indicate that it will not be able to do so. Indeed, I am grateful to Sir John Megaw and his colleagues for the speed at which they are working. I have little doubt but that when the report is made available the House will wish to discuss it. However, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Lord President.

Mr. Sainsbury

Does my hon. Friend agree that an agreement on productivity is as important for satisfactory progress on pay negotiations in the Civil Service as it is in the rest of British industry and commerce? Can he assure the House that no obstacle will be erected in the Civil Service to the acceptance and introduction of new office machinery and methods of information technology?

Mr. Hayhoe

A national Whitley council agreement concerned with new technology was negotiated and agreed to a short time ago. The agreement will run for two years. Across the Civil Service good progress is being made, with the full co-operation of the staff, with the introduction of new technology.