HC Deb 09 March 1987 vol 112 cc17-8
85. Mr. Soley

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met the Civil Service trade unions; and what matters were discussed.

Mr. Luce

I have informal meetings from time to time with representatives of the Civil Service trade unions. Matters of mutual interest are discussed.

Mr. Soley

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets the trade unions, will he discuss with them the effect on morale in the Civil Service of the cuts being made by his colleagues in other Departments, especially the DHSS, where cuts are preventing the provision of a good standard of service to the public and undermining morale in an increasingly serious way?

Mr. Luce

I and my colleagues who are in charge of Departments are keen to ensure that the morale of the Civil Service is high. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have noticed that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has acknowledged that there have been pressures on certain parts of the DHSS, particularly in offices all over the country, as a result of which he is planning to increase the size of the Civil Service by 5,000. That is an acknowledgement of the pressures and an attempt to deal with the morale problem in the Civil Service.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

May I suggest that not everything is right in the Civil Service at the moment? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the four Civil Service unions have set up a campaign for a better Civil Service at a cost of £6 million? Should not all members of the Civil Service now declare loyalty and allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and act like true civil servants by being honourable, respectable and responsible?

Mr. Luce

All the evidence that I see as I travel around the country and meet civil servants is that they do an outstandingly good job and that they are loyal, dedicated and professional. When individuals are not, disciplinary procedures can be taken.

Mr. Corbett

Given the fact that, in the face of rising crime, extra police officers have been appointed, why does the Minister resist calls, in the face of rising VAT fiddles, for an increase of 1,000 officers to deal with VAT frauds? Does the right Gentleman understand that, for about £20 million a year, they could recoup about £122 million in what is now fiddled VAT money?

Mr. Luce

The fact that, with the DHSS, VAT and in certain other areas, we have shown flexibility about the size of the Civil Service and are prepared to make modest increases when that would lead to an improvement of the service shows that we are anxious to ensure that there is a proper service.

Mr. Gow

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the offer that the Government have made to civil servants is sufficient to recruit, retain and motivate civil servants of high quality?

Mr. Luce

That is principally a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but my hon. Friend may have noticed that there is now a provisional pay agreement with the Institution of Professional Civil Servants to provide much more flexibility in the pay scheme to acknowledge retention and recruitment needs. I hope that that will be progress in the right direction.

Mr. Maclennan

Did the Minister take the opportunity to explain to the Civil Service unions whether the policy on decentralised pay bargaining was that proposed by the Paymaster General or that followed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Luce

There is common agreement among us that there is a need for more flexibility in the pay system. The provisional pay agreement that has been reached with the IPCS is a step in that direction and has the suppport of the whole Government.