HC Deb 07 November 1983 vol 48 cc17-20
30. Mr. Canavan

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

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

Plans for my next meeting with the Civil Service unions have not yet been made.

Mr. Canavan

How can the Government claim that any genuine pay bargaining is possible when they have every intention of using cash limits to impose their 3 per cent. wage increase policy? Is he aware that such a pay increase would mean a wage cut in real terms for the fourth successive year for most low-paid civil servants? Is this yet another example of the Government's double standards?

Mr. Hayhoe

Cash limits are in operation for this year and for 1983–84. The hon. Gentleman will recall that a negotiated settlement on pay was reached with Civil Service unions. I welcome that agreement and hope that the hon. Gentleman will. I have no reason to believe that it will not be possible to achieve a negotiated settlement for 1984–85.

Mr. Rathbone

In such discussions, will my hon. Friend include on the agenda better methods of taking account of the true value of index-linked pensions and of allowing for them in future wage bargaining?

Mr. Hayhoe

Account is taken of all factors during negotiations. My hon. Friend knows that the Conservatives fought the recent general election campaign on the proposal that public sector employees should make realistic contributions for their index-linked pensions.

Mr. Loyden

Will the Minister discuss with the Civil Service unions the scrapping of the 22 million riles on PAYE clients? What will his attitude to civil servants be on that matter?

Mr. Hayhoe

I am prepared to consider discussing that matter with Civil Service unions if they wish to raise it. I should have thought that that issue was of more interest to just one union—the Inland Revenue Staff Federation—and perhaps one of my colleagues at the Treasury, as they are more closely concerned.

Mr. Jessel

Will my hon. Friend discuss the ways in which all trade unionists can be persuaded or encouraged to attach more weight to their long-term interests than to their short-term interests?

Mr. Hayhoe

The Civil Service unions' record in that respect is good. I was delighted to see that the overwhelming majority of Civil and Public Services Association members voted not to affiliate to the Labour party. That shows that they have a good regard for their long-term interests.

Mr. Tom Clarke

If the Minister holds a meeting with Civil Service unions, will he discuss the polygraph system? If so, will he bear in mind the recent and influential report of the American Congress, which suggests that the system is not reliable?

Mr. Hayhoe

The hon. Gentleman might be aware that that issue was raised in the House during the debate on the Civil Service a week last Friday. I said then that the Government intended to go ahead with the pilot survey on the use of polygraphs. I also said that full account would be taken of the many reservations that have been expressed about the system.

Mr. Michael Morris

If my hon. Friend discusses the proposals on PAYE files, will he also apprise himself of the Inland Revenue's strange requirement that its officers may not telephone anyone in the morning? Surely that is counter-productive in the garnering of revenue.

Mr. Hayhoe

The proposal that Inland Revenue staff should not use telephones in the morning was made by management with a view to reducing heavy telephone charges incurred by the Inland Revenue. I am not aware of any reduction in the amount of revenue garnered.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will my hon. Friend explain to the Civil Service unions and my constituents why almost all Government Departments, including some vital ones, have reduced their manpower while the agricultural intervention board organisation, which is now enormous, has increased its manpower every year since the Government came to power? Is he aware that the board's main function is to provide subsidies for the export of food to Russia and elsewhere at prices that are less than half that which my constituents and his must pay?

Mr. Hayhoe

I admire the way in which my hon. Friend has brought up this subject during Civil Service questions. He knows that it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Civil Service manpower has been reduced so much that we are nearing the smallest Civil Service since the end of the second world war. That is a creditable achievement.

Dr. McDonald

In view of the possible breakdown in pay and other negotiations, will the Minister urge the Government to reconsider their refusal to Megaw to be bound to go to arbitration, especially as the Prime Minister constantly nags other trade unions to go to arbitration before, as she puts it, rushing into disputes.

Mr. Hayhoe

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new responsibilities and wish her well in them. She will be aware that the Megaw committee said that unilateral access was inappropriate. The Government share that view. The hon. Lady will also know that these matters are still being negotiated by the Government and the Council of Civil Service Unions. I hope that it will be possible to reach agreement based on the Megaw recommendations.