HC Deb 10 March 1982 vol 19 cc841-2
40. Mr. Sainsbury

Minister for the Civil Service whether she is satisfied with the efficiency of the office management within the Civil Service.

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

No, but it is getting better. Tight cash limits and repayment for office supplies and, from next year, for accommodation make Departments look hard at their running costs. In addition, Departments have undertaken a wide range of studies, more than 50 in association with the Management and Personnel Office, to improve the cost-effectiveness of such services as messengers, typing and telecommunications. Studies will continue. I believe that our general efficiency programme will bring further good progress.

Mr. Sainsbury

I thank my hon. Friend for his encouraging reply. Does he agree that these important services, covering programmes that involve many people and areas such as energy efficiency, respond to central guidance and monitoring?

Mr. Hayhoe

Yes. Energy conservation studies initiated from the centre have achieved an 8 per cent. reduction. A 15 per cent. reduction has been achieved in office supplies and there has been a 10 to 15 per cent. reduction in telecommunications charges. Other larger savings have been made as a result of these studies.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the Minister aware of the horse laugh to be heard in Whitehall over the closure of the Civil Service Department because of the assumption that most people who worked in the Treasury before moving to the Civil Service Department are now going back to the Treasury? Is he aware that the desks are the same and that the only change is the additional payment by the taxpayer in changing the name on the stationery.

Mr. Hayhoe

If the hon. Gentleman had been following these matters with care, he would not have made such an absurd suggestion.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will my hon. Friend address himself to the level of heating and energy used in Government offices? Will he see whether this can be accomodated in a way that bears more relation to the level of use by the ordinary taxpayer, who has to meet the cost?

Mr. Hayhoe

This must be a matter primarily for the Ministers concerned. As a result of a programme of measures initiated by the Property Services Agency, consumption of energy has been reduced by 8 per cent. in the last two years, and a further 4 per cent. saving is planned this year.

Mr. Alan Williams

Is it not a fact that double the £260 million prospective Rayner efficiency gains has already been wasted by the Government in non-recoverable interest as a result of last year's Government-created Civil Service dispute? Will the Minister confirm that, had the Prime Minister at the start of that dispute offered the package that she was forced to offer to end it, over £500 million in interest charges would not have been wasted and the extra money in the kitty would have enabled the Chancellor yesterday to offer a penny off the standard rate of tax?

Mr. Hayhoe

I can confirm that substantial sums were involved in interest payments as a result of the non-collection of revenue arising out of last year's industrial dispute. This only goes to show, as I and other Ministers stated at the time, that there was no justification for the action then taken by the civil servants. I think that many of them now regret the action that they took.