§ 47. Mr. Peter Bruinvels
asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he expects to meet the new general secretary of the Civil and Public Services Association to discuss Civil Service pay and conditions; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Bruinvels
My right hon. Friend will no doubt join me in congratulating the CPSA and its new leader, John Ellis, on such a decisive election win. Is this not the way that democracy can be seen to be at work, and does it not show that, in true and fair elections, the right people can be elected? When my right hon. Friend next sees Mr. Ellis, will he advise him to pay a visit to the Leicester DHSS office, to ensure that the workers in that office, who are members of the CPSA, are putting my constituents first and putting aside their differences and their past support for Militant?
§ Mr. Luce
I am sure that the vast majority of civil servants put service, not only to my hon. Friend's constituents but to the public as a whole, first. Let me endorse what he said. I should like to feel that the House will join me in congratulating the CPSA having conducted a fair and democratic election in which the majority of members participated. I welcome the fact that there was on this occasion a decisive result.
§ Mr. Winnick
As the Minister meets leaders of non-industrial trade unions may I ask whether he has recently met the appropriate trade unions in the Civil Service about the fact that it is now three years since the shameful ban was imposed on GCHQ employees belonging to a trade union? As, in a few moments, the Home Secretary will be making as much political capital as he can out of events on Saturday, does not the ban on trade unionists at GCHQ demonstrate beyond any doubt that the Government are the enemy of trade unionism?
§ Mr. Luce
The hon. Gentleman is talking absolute nonsense and he knows it. He also knows, and the House will have noted, that while this matter is principally for my right hon. the Foreign Secretary, by declaring this case inadmissible the European Commission on Human Rights has confirmed the Government's view that our actions were fully in accordance with our commitments to human rights.
§ Mr. Favell
How successful has my right hon. Friend been in persuading the CPSA and other Civil Service unions to have clerical work done in the north? Banks manage to have typing, for example, done well away from branches because modern communications enable dictation to be carried out over a distance. Is there any point in paying an arm and a leg for a typist in London when the work can be done at half the cost and twice as well in the north?
§ Mr. Luce
My hon. Friend has put his finger on an important point. It is perfectly true that it is much more 18 expensive to recruit people in the south-east than it is to recruit them in other parts of Britain. He may like to note that over the past seven years there has been a natural progression of 5.000 officials moving outside London because it is thought that it is operationally more efficient to move them to other regions.
§ Dr. McDonald
Does the Minister not think that morale in the Civil Service would be much improved if the Government made it plain that they recognise the value of the Civil Service a ad if they sought to re-establish a settled pay system and improve equal opportunities throughout the service?
§ Mr. Luce
The hon. Lady's assumption that the morale of the Civil Service is low is wrong. Of course certain parts of the Civil Service are going through particular difficulties, some of them in the scientific field. On Wednesday the Government will launch, for the first time ever, an annual report on the work of the Management and Personnel Office and on the Civil Service as a whole. The hon. Lady will find there a strong tribute to the Civil Service by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Marlow
As the cost of living, the cost of housing, and wage rates, are totally different in different parts of the country, is it not daft that civil servants are paid the same wherever they happen to be outside London? As we have a strong Government, is it not time that some action was taken on this?
§ Mr. Luce
Although Civil Service pay is principally a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, my hon. Friend may like to note that there has been increased progression towards a more flexible pay system in the Civil Service and that we now have a system of pay additions for those parts of the Civil Service presenting recruitment and retention problems. That is a move in the direction about which my hon. Friend speaks.