§ 97. Mr. Peter Bruinvels
asked the Minister for the Civil Service what representations he has received from Civil Service unions regarding recruitment; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Bruinvels
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the difficulties facing management—certainly in Leicester—and the Civil and Public Services Association, over the concept of whether overtime should be offered or more casual staff taken on? Does he agree that offering flexible pay nationally is a good concept? If a no-strike clause were brought into the contracts of all new civil servants, would we not have the best Civil Service in the world?
§ Mr. Luce
I agree that it is important to have a more flexible pay scheme, designed to encourage better recruitment as well as retention of civil servants. The Government are making positive moves in that direction. There is already evidence in certain professions—for example, engineering and science as a whole—that both recruitment and retention are very much better.
§ Mr. Key
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is Civil Service policy that, when disabled people are to be recruited, they are automatically interviewed at the point of entry? Will he also confirm that, once a disabled person has been recruited, every attempt is made to ensure that that person is placed in an appropriate job, rather than 760 being given a job that is too demanding and then experiencing the disappointment of being sacked or moved elsewhere?
§ Mr. Winnick
Should not those employed in the public service be very disturbed lest, if the Government are re-elected—however unlikely that is—civil servants may be unable to take strike action, or may even be forbidden to belong to a trade union, as happened with GCHQ? Bearing in mind what is happening with the teachers, should not the warning issued by the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) be heard by those employed in the public service?
§ Mr. Luce
As usual, the hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. I was interested to note that the Select Committee on Treasury and Civil Service expressed the view last year that the Civil Service provided an impartial service and was loyal to the Government of the day. That view received all-party support.
§ Mr. Favell
Are the Civil Service unions relaxing their opposition to the relocation of Civil Service jobs in the north, where many well-qualified people are ready, willing and able to do work that could be done far better there than in the south?
§ Dr. McDonald
Will the Minister note and report to his right hon. and hon. Friends the Opposition's alarm at the proposal to cut 433 civil servants in jobcentres who are engaged in helping people to find jobs and also at the proposal to increase the numbers who are employed in the restart scheme, who are concerned merely with discouraging people from claiming benefit, thus reducing the numbers of the unemployed? Will he note this alarm and immediately reverse the policy, because the prime purpose of civil servants in the jobcentres should he to try to enable people to find jobs.
§ Mr. Luce
The hon. Lady spoilt her case by making quite untrue allegations about the activities of civil servants in discouraging people from claiming benefit. She ought to withdraw her remarks.
As for the size of the Civil Service, the Government have made it quite clear that we shall be entirely flexible, if there is a strong case for improving services. We have done that with Customs and Excise and also with the Inland Revenue, and we have increased the numbers in the Department of Health and Social Security. If there is a case, we consider it carefully.
§ Mr. Rhodes James
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply to my supplementary question on question 40, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That is not a point of order. It is encouraging that there should be this interest in the arts.
§ Mr. Adley
My point, Mr. Speaker, is that, by my estimate, 35 of those hon. Members who had oral questions on today's Order Paper were not here, and I am wondering how many of them gave you notice that they would not be here. It costs the public a great deal of money to have questions placed on the Order Paper, and if hon. Members cannot be bothered to turn up public money is wasted.
§ Mr. Forth
Yes. In the context of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley), 762 following a day such as today, will you consider instructing the Table Office that if an hon. Member who is lucky enough to have his question drawn does not turn up to ask his question, it should not accept another question from him?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not think that the House as a whole would welcome that suggestion. There may be very good reasons why an hon. Member cannot he present. However, the tabling of questions is undoubtedly costly, and hon. Members who have questions on the Order Paper, particularly if they are high on the Order Paper and likely to be reached, should be present. If they cannot be present, it would be of great convenience to let the Chair know so that their names are not called.
§ Mr. Heffer
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Should the House not remember what the late Sir Gerald Nabarro once said—that hon. Members should not put down a question unless they know the answer?