HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc744-5
41. Mr. Canavan

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

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

Manpower reductions in the non-industrial Civil Service.

Mr. Canavan

Has the Minister seen the report in The Guardian today of a leak from the Megaw committee of inquiry to the effect that the principle of pay comparability between civil servants and those doing similar jobs in the private sector should be eroded and the suggestion that the role of trade unions in pay negotiations should be reduced? If that report is true, will the Minister tell Megaw to ditch such provocative proposals now, otherwise we will be heading for a confrontation like last year's Civil Service strike?

Mr. Hayhoe

I have seen those purely speculative reports, but I will certainly not intervene in any way on the basis of them.

Mr. Eggar

Can my hon. Friend confirm that time off for trade union duties in the Civil Service is currently costing the country over £14 million a year? Has he noted the recommendations of the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service that more control should be exercised over how trade union officials carry out their duties in Government time? Has he any additional statement to make on that matter?

Mr. Hayhoe

I have, of course, noted the Select Committee's recommendations, and I can confirm to the House that a new agreement has been made with the trade union side of the National 'Whitley Council which defines this whole area more precisely than did the previous agreement. It also provides for greater overall control and for the accountability of union representatives for their time spent on industrial relations and trade union duties and activities. Therefore, the agreement takes account of the Select Committee's recommendations.

Mr. Alan Williams

In view of the worrying points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), will the Minister tell us when he expects to receive the Megaw report? When the hon. Gentleman next meets the trade unions, will he explain to them why the Top Salaries Review Body report, which was received on 1 April, was not implemented at the same time as the recommendations on the pay of doctors, dentists and the Armed Forces? That seems to imply that the Government are considering a modification of the recommendations. If so, will the hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that he and his fellow Ministers will discuss the situation with the unions before announcing any final decision?

Mr. Hayhoe

The right hon. Gentleman would not expect me to comment on purely speculative reports about the work of the Megaw committee. As far as I am aware, the committee is on schedule to make its report by midsummer. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making an announcement on the TSRB report very soon.

Mr. Marlow

While the majority of right hon. and hon. Members would be happy to accept a pay increase of only 4 per cent., they would be very reluctant to do so if senior civil servants, such as principals and assistant secretaries, were to receive an increase above that level. Can my hon. Friend assure the House that senior civil servants will not be offered a pay increase of more than 4 per cent., thereby increasing still further the differential between them and hon. Members?

Mr. Hayhoe

It would be wise for my hon. Friend to await the report of the TSRB. However, in view of his comments, it is worth noting that the TSRB group is receiving about 5 per cent. in cash below the level of the 1980 award, whereas hon. Members are receiving the full value of that 1980 award.

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