HC Deb 15 July 1985 vol 83 cc17-8
39. Mr. Parry

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he nexts expects to meet the Civil Service trade unions; and what matters he expects to discuss.

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

I will be meeting representatives of some of the Civil Service unions on Wednesday 17 July to discuss, at their request, the pay of senior civil servants.

Mr. Parry

When the Minister meets the unions, will he discuss trade union membership? Will he state whether it is true that the draft new Civil Service handbook no longer encourages civil servants to join the trade union of their choice? If that is so, is it not inferference with the Civil Service trade unions?

Mr. Hayhoe

On Wednesday we will be discussing the pay of senior civil servants. If the unions want to discuss other matters, I am sure that suitable opportunities can be arranged. I understand that the handbook is in draft and is being discussed with the trade unions.

Mr. Forman

When my right hon. Friend meets the Civil Service trade unions, will he make it clear to them that, while it is necessary to keep firm control of public sector pay, including Civil Service pay, all members of the Government recognise the quality and dedication of the work done by the Civil Service?

Mr. Hayhoe

I am happy to endorse what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will the Minister refute the suggestion made in an article in The Times recently by Mr. David West, that the reduction in the numbers of civil servants has come about as a result of reductions in work? Will he also comment on the suggestions by Mr. West that the Government's systems management in the Civil Service is woefully inadequate?

Mr. Hayhoe

The article in The Times by Mr. West was misleading and inaccurate in a number of ways. His direct experience is many years out of date. Staff inspectiion, which was his particular interest, has an important role to play, but the significant reduction in the number of civil servants from 732,000 in May 1979 to under 600,000 today has been achieved in many other ways. I am happy to pay tribute to the Civil Service, which has contributed considerably to an increase in efficiency.

Dr. McDonald

When the Minister meets the Civil Service unions, will he also discuss with them the fact that, despite their continued efforts, the loss of 1,000 Customs and Excise officers since 1979 has contributed to the 750 per cent. increase in heroin smuggling? Will he agree with them that the cut in Customs staff has been extremely irresponsible? Will he admit that the 50 per cent. increase in staff for special investigation will be of limited use because they will be redeployed from Customs staff elsewhere?

Mr. Hayhoe

That is not a matter that is likely to be discussed on Wednesday when I meet the Civil Service unions. As I said, we shall be discussing the pay of senior civil servants. Perhaps the hon. Lady did not hear my original answer. The hon. Lady is incorrect in suggesting that the reduction in the number of uniformed staff has led to an increase in the amount of heroin coming into this country. She should be aware of the significant increase under this Government of the number of Customs and Excise specialist investigation staff. She should also pay tribute to the significant successes that have been achieved as a result of that.