HC Deb 14 May 1984 vol 60 cc17-8
36. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the Civil Service unions; and what subjects were discussed.

37. Mr. Parry

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what matters were discussed at his last meeting with the Civil Service unions.

Mr. Hayhoe

There have been no further meetings since the two meetings referred to in the answer I gave to my hon. Friend on 12 March, at which the subjects discussed were Civil Service catering and GCHQ.

Mr. Taylor

Is it possible for my hon. Friend's Department to review the accuracy of the estimates regarding the manpower consequences of legislation? Will he examine the envisaged savings from the transfer of housing benefits from the Department of Health and Social Security to local authorities? The transfer was estimated to make an enormous saving in manpower and to save a great deal of work, but appears to have created additional work for both the DHSS and local authorities.

Mr. Hayhoe

The primary responsibility rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but I shall certainly consider the matter.

Mr. Winnick

What is the position of the GCHQ employees who refused to abandon their trade union membership? What is happening to them? Is it not ironic that during the year when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Tolpuddle martyrs a Tory Government should penalise men and women because they wish to exercise their democratic right to belong to a trade union?

Mr. Hayhoe

I repudiate the implications of the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question. Detailed questions, such as those in the first part of his question, should be addressed to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Mr. Farr

During discussions with the Civil Service unions, was the Scott report considered, and was progress made towards eliminating the indexing of Civil Service pensions?

Mr. Hayhoe

That was not discussed with the Civil Service unions. I refer my hon. Friend to a debate that we had during the autumn of 1982.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Is the Minister aware of the strength of feeling which is building up in the Civil Service because the Government are unwilling to recognise how much pay has fallen behind that in the private sector? Does he agree that that is demonstrated by the figures produced by the relevant body? Will the Government respond before there is an explosion in the Civil Service similar to that in the teaching profession?

Mr. Hayhoe

The Treasury is responsible for Civil Service pay, and questions about that should not be raised at this Question Time—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may be astonished to hear that, but I answer questions about matters concerned with the Management and Personnel Office, which do not include pay and numbers. It is not for me to instruct Opposition Members about normal ministerial responsibilities. Pay negotiations are taking place. Quite apart from the procedural point, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment on the details of those negotiations.

Mr. Soames

When my right hon. Friend next meets the Civil Service unions, and despite disagreements with them, will he pass on to them the gratitude of many hon. Members for the courtesy, consideration and efficiency shown by civil servants in dealing with our constituency matters?

Mr. Hayhoe

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. His sentiment will be shared widely in the House.

Mr. Nellist

Following the line of previous questions to the Minister about GCHQ and the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), is the Minister aware of the historic link between Cheltenham and Tolpuddle? Cheltenham was the first town to petition the House against the sentences of the Tolpuddle martyrs 150 years ago. Does he see the historic irony of the Government's attack on trade unions in Cheltenham today?

Mr. Hayhoe

It is totally absurd to link the historic events at Tolpuddle with recent events at GCHQ.

Dr. McDonald

How can the Government justify the forcible transfer of the 100 trade union members at GCHQ, given the Treasury Solicitor's clear commitment in a letter written on 22 March—which I hope the Minister has had an opportunity to read—to take no action against those who decide to retain their trade union membership until the court case is completed? How can the Government justify the steps that they are taking?

Mr. Hayhoe

No action is being taken compulsorily to transfer people until the results of the court action are known.