HC Deb 26 June 1989 vol 155 cc696-8
76. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many Civil Service jobs in the London area have been agencified; how many are expected to be agencified during the next two years; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Luce

This information is not readily available to my Department. The location of staff in agencies is a matter for the Departments and agencies concerned. But I hope very much that, like other Government activities, they will continue to review the location of their work, including localities which are the focus of the Government's regional and urban policies.

Mr. Greenway

I hope that my right hon. Friend will find the new logistic terms "agencified" and "agencification" expressive if somewhat ugly. If civil servant jobs are agencified will my right hon. Friend ensure that it is done sensitively and that it pays regard to the morale of the people who are moved of such a scheme? Will he seek an early agencification of passport office jobs with a view to ending all the trouble that we have had there and getting the half a million passports that people are seeking for their holidays out to them?

Mr. Luce

On the latter point about the passport office, my hon. Friend may recall that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made it plain that the passport office is a serious candidate to become an agency as soon as possible—that is now being studied. All the evidence so far suggests that morale is good in the seven agencies already established. They know precisely what their targets and objectives are. That is something that helps the management of the Civil Service and helps morale.

Mr. Maclennan

Will the Minister please acknowledge that he makes it more difficult for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to introduce a core curriculum in English if he accepts, without comment, the ugly and incomprehensible word "agencified"?

Mr. Luce

I have not used that word. I am partly responsible for plain English in the Civil Service and I shall take the hon. Gentleman's point on board.

77. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many Civil Service agencies he expects to be set up in the next 12 months.

Mr. Luce

Seven executive agencies have already been set up, and Departments are working on more than 30 other proposals. Those include the whole social security operation and, in my own Department, the Civil Service recruitment agency and the occupational health service.

Mr. Coombs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his commitment to continue the relocation of civil servants out of London will he widely welcomed on the Conservative Benches? Will he couple that with a commitment to a continuing reduction in the total number of civil servants, in particular those who must work in London and are therefore held to ransom to Mr. Jimmy Knapp who has recently replaced his better rail campaign with a no rail campaign?

Mr. Luce

In the past 10 years, the size of the Civil Service has been reduced by roughly 21 per cent. and now it is certainly a slimmed-down and professional service. It is worth noting that four out of five civil servants are employed outside the Greater London area, and with the policy for relocation, that number is expected to increase.

Mr. Janner

Does the Minister recognise that many agencies, whether they are in public or in private hands, have been responsible for much of the unlawful discrimination against people on grounds of sex and race? His Department is now to meet that problem through the action programme, which the Labour party welcomed when he announced it. What will he now do with the agencies to see that they do not discriminate in a way that is unlawful and wrong?

Mr. Luce

It will, of course, be exactly the same for the agencies because they are all part of the Civil Service and those who serve in agencies continue to be civil servants. The hon. and learned Gentleman is, therefore, right to stress that the agencies will have the same objective. Objectives and targets are set under the framework agreements formed in the agencies. I envisage that in the setting up of all agencies it will be a clear intention that: the principle of equality of opportunity in every area should be clearly established.

Mr. John Greenway

When considering agencies over the next year or so, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to move more Civil Service jobs out of London into the provinces, especially the north? Is he aware that there is a symposium tomorrow by York city council supported by other local authorities in north Yorkshire for that very purpose?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing that to my attention. It is worth repeating that my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General has made it plain that 34,000 Civil Service jobs are now under review with a view to considering whether they should be relocated in other parts of the country. If even part of that relocation takes place, it will be a substantial addition to the 12,000 people who have moved out of London since 1979.