HC Deb 28 January 1988 vol 126 cc475-6
Q2. Mr. Fallon

To ask the Prime Minister what steps she is taking to decentralise the work of government.

The Prime Minister

Over 5,500 Civil Service posts have already been transferred from London since 1979 under the Government's dispersal programme, and a similar number of posts have been dispersed on the initiative of individual Departments.

Mr. Fallon

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many private companies previously based in London and the south-east have now discovered the advantages of lower-cost enterprise and the higher quality of life that the north can offer? Bearing in mind the very high cost of London weighting allowance and commuter subsidies, would it not make more sense, where it is cost-effective to do so, to transfer more administrative and clerical work from Whitehall to the provinces?

The Prime Minister

I have indicated some of the posts that have gone and some that separate Departments are also considering. There are nearly 34,000 civil servants working in the northern region. I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of locating Civil Service jobs outside London and the south-east where possible, because the costs are very high there. This is resulting in separate Departments looking at their plans. By the end of this year, the DHSS will have created a further 500 jobs at its Newcastle central office.

Mr. Nicholas Brown

The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) undertook some time ago to persuade the Prime Minister to move a substantial number of defence jobs from the south to the north. Why has he been so unsuccessful?

The Prime Minister

I have said that there are nearly 34,000 civil servants working in the northern region, and in fact four out of five civil servants work outside Greater London. There are already a very considerable number of jobs in the northern region, and, as I have said, there will be more DHSS jobs by the end of this year.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is thoroughly refreshing to have a closed question of this kind at this time?

The Prime Minister

That is a matter for the House. I try to answer the questions that are put down.

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