HC Deb 27 February 1989 vol 148 cc19-20
93. Mr. Fisher

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he has any plans to alter the terms and conditions of employment of civil servants in those units of administration and Government work that may be proposed for privatisation.

Mr. Richard Luce

No, Sir.

Mr. Fisher

Will the Minister confirm or deny the rumoured existence of a proposed Privatisation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which would remove the pension rights of civil servants?

Mr. Luce

I know of no such Bill. But let me make it plain that the policy on privatisation remains clear and consistent, as it has for the past 10 years. It is for each Government Department to review whether any of its operations could be more efficiently managed by means of privatisation. Failing that, there are other ways of dealing with the matter. If privatisation is an option, it is of course important to treat civil servants fairly and properly. Each case must be reviewed, and the Secretary of State for the Department involved will be accountable to the House.

Mr. Barry Field

If my right hon. Friend has no plans to alter the terms and conditions of employment of civil servants before privatisation, does he plan to introduce alterations to allow for regional pay, thereby saving the British taxpayer a considerable amount of money?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend has put his finger on an important point in terms of not only the location but the recruitment and retention of civil servants. Recent agreements reached with the Civil Service unions have led to greater flexibility in the arrangements, allowing for flexible pay to take into account people's skills and the area in which they work. That is the direction in which we are going, and I think it makes entire sense in terms of proper recruitment and retention policies.

Dr. Marek

The Opposition welcome the Minister's statement that he has not heard of the Privatisation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1990, and that at present he has no plans to change the existing pension entitlements of civil servants prior to privatisation in any area for which the Government may have such proposals. May I ask him to go a little further and say that is his view, and that in future he will oppose any changes in, for example, the pension entitlements of civil servants before any privatisation?

Mr. Luce

Each case has to be treated on its merits according to the circumstances. If we are talking about the Civil Service and our proposals for privatisation, clearly the options available to the civil servants who are involved will have to be set out—whether they stay in the Civil Service, or whether they have an option to transfer, in which case they will probably have the option to transfer their pension as well. Clearly, it is important to ensure that, so far as terms and conditions are concerned, civil servants are treated as fairly as possible.