HC Deb 16 December 1985 vol 89 cc17-20
43. Dr. Michael Clark

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will indicate the change in work load for civil servants between June 1983 and June 1985 and the corresponding increase in productivity between the same two dates.

Mr. Luce

The annual reports by the Treasury to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee on Civil Service manpower reductions, copies of which are in the Library, provide some indication of the effects on Civil Service manpower levels of changes in work load. These show a saving of nearly 20,000 posts between 1 April 1983 and 1 April 1985 from improved efficiency and more streamlined working.

Dr. Clark

I welcome the increased productivity of Civil Servants. Is it due in part to performance appraisal? Do civil servants in the Department of Education and Science participate in such performance appraisals? Is that not an example to teachers who reject appraisal?

Mr. Luce

I cannot answer for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the appraisal of teachers, but in the Civil Service we are putting ever more emphasis on performance assessment and on individuals' achievement in the job. The result is much more effective management, and it provides a good example.

Mr. Home Robertson

Further to what my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said about the work load of civil servants in agricultural research and development, does the Minister agree that there has been a 41 per cent. cut in funding of the service in Scotland at the very time when there is an unprecedented need for research into alternative techniques, and that the result is impossible strain on people working in the Department?

Mr. Luce

The details of that matter are for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, but there is careful monitoring of the work load on civil servants in all Departments. When a special case is made out—as, for example, with Customs and Excise or the Inland Revenue—adjustments can be made.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister aware that the burden on DHSS and Department of Employment staff, especially in the coalfields, leads one to the view that the Government might be asking too much from conscientious officials?

Mr. Luce

I have no doubt about the remarkable job being done by a pared down Civil Service under considerable pressures because of the efficiency changes. There is constant monitoring of the efforts made by civil servants and their work load, and adjustments can be made.

Mr. Skinner

Can the Minister explain this bizarre contradiction? He mentioned a reduction of 20,000 in Civil Service manpower. It cost £1.2 million to run 10 Downing street when the Labour Prime Minister left, but it costs £3.8 million in 1984–85? Does he agree that there are more civil servants in 10 Downing street now—some with beards and some probably economists—in direct contradiction of everything for which the Prime Minister stands for everybody else? There is no rate capping at 10 Downing street.

Mr. Luce

There are civil servants at 10 Downing street, just as there are everywhere else, and they are of the highest calibre. We have rightly reduced Civil Service manpower by 20 per cent. in the past six years. We have asked the Civil Service to become more efficient and more streamlined. It has become more professional.

Mr. Viggers

Does my hon. Friend agree that if DHSS staff are under pressure—as they are—we need a simpler system? We look forward to hearing a statement on a simpler system later today.

Mr. Luce

That is why we emphasised the need for more efficient systems and a more streamlined service. That is what we are working towards.

Dr. McDonald

The Minister's reply to that last question will not do. Is he aware that the Chief Auditor's report shows that one in three supplementary benefit claims is mistakenly administered because of enormous pressures on DHSS staff? Is he further aware that the White Paper, which is shortly to be announced, will put enormous pressure on DHSS staff? It will not reduce their work load it will increase it, partly because of administration of what was called the social fund.

Will the Minister consult his colleagues to ensure that more DHSS staff are recruited to cope with the enormous increase in their work? Will he also ensure that the gap is not made up by increasing temporary staff, in the light of the forthcoming White Paper?

Mr. Luce

All those questions should be put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. We continually monitor the work load of the Civil Service and take that into account when examining the size of each Department.