HC Deb 27 February 1989 vol 148 cc17-9
90. Mr. Allen

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he next plans to meet with officials of the Civil Service trade unions; and what topics are on the agenda.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard Luce)

I have no plans at present to meet officials of the Civil Service trade unions.

Mr. Allen

What pre-testing of coastguards' eyesight and hearing takes place, and what continuous assessment is there of their eyesight and hearing, given that more of them work at VDUs and listening stations, often, I am told, for 12 hours at a stretch? What breaks do they have during the clay and throughout the year, so that their eyes and ears can recover? I know that that is a detailed question, but I should appreciate it if the Minister were to write to me with his thoughts and some accurate information.

Mr. Luce

I shall, of course, draw that question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who is responsible for coastguards. If the hon. Gentleman expects me to answer his question off the cuff, he thereby ensures that I am the Minister for everything.

Mr. Holt

My right hon. Friend usually trots out the answer that four fifths of civil servants work outside the south-east triangle when I ask questions about the movement of civil servants to the north of England. His answer earlier was disappointing: he does not appear to have plans to talk to the Association of First Division Civil Servants to ask why none of its members want to go to the north of England, and why so few are there. What is his Department doing to encourage other Departments to see that senior civil servants take their Departments with them to the north of England?

Mr. Luce

I am entirely sympathetic to my hon. Friend's views. My right hon. Friend the Paymaster General is responsible for the overall policy of relocation of civil servants. I have repeatedly made it plain that four out of five civil servants work outside Greater London, that in the past nine years another 12,000 have moved outside Greater London through dispersal and relocation and that my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General has identified a review of 34,000 civil servants who could possibly be moved. It is not certain whether they will be, but the review is under way. I hope that that encourages my hon. Friend.

91. Mr. Harry Barnes

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

Mr. Luce

I have meetings from time to time with representatives of Civil Service trade unions both centrally and during visits to Civil Service establishments. A wide variety of matters are raised.

Mr. Barnes

Has the Minister given further consideration to the demands of the Civil Service trade unions that interviewers for the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys should be included in the principal Civil Service pension scheme, as contributions towards that scheme are already deducted from their salaries?

Mr. Luce

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, and I know that discussions are continuing. This is principally a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I shall make a point of ensuring that the hon. Gentleman receives a specific reply on that issue.

Mr. Jack

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the great disappointment shown by many members of the Civil Service trade unions when his Department had to transfer to the Treasury my question on Civil Service relocations to the Fylde coast. Will he take this opportunity to endorse the Fylde coast as a suitable place for civil servants to work, and will he provide such information as is necessary to show that the Fylde coast is suitable to my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General when he makes his decisions on the matter?

Mr. Luce

I understand my hon. Friend's sense of frustration, but there is a clearly laid-out division of responsibility between my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and myself on Civil Service matters. Where I can, I try to give a broad Government reply on Civil Service matters, even if they do not directly concern me. As for my hon. Friend's specific point, I shall draw my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General to the importance of attracting more civil servants to the Fylde area and ensure that he takes that point on board.

Mr. Madden

To revert to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East. (Mr. Barnes) about OPCS interviewers, has the Minister seen the leaflet issued by the Institution of Professional Civil Servants entitled, "Would you do this job?" Is the Minister aware that those 500 interviewers, who are mainly women, are badly paid and have no holiday or sick pay, no job security and no promotion prospects? They have been struggling for 10 years for a pension. Is it not high time that that injustice was remedied by the Minister and that those women, who often work irregular hours alone, at night and in dangerous circumstances, were given justice and a proper pension?

Mr. Luce

Although it is not my direct responsibility, I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor to the hon. Gentleman's points.

Sir Peter Hordern

Is it not the case that the Paymaster General's office is in Crawley? Does my right hon. Friend know whether the Paymaster General considers that to be the best place to deploy his resources rather than the north-east or the north-west?

Mr. Luce

It is only fair that I do not give a direct answer on behalf of my right hon. Friend. But he made it plain in a recent statement that we are reviewing the position of 34,000 civil servants to see whether it is possible to relocate them. I hope that my hon. Friend realises the importance that the Government attach to relocation.

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