HC Deb 11 March 1991 vol 187 cc666-7
40. Mr. Michael

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what steps he has taken within his sphere of responsibility to safeguard the interests and career prospects of civil servants working in areas of responsibility affected by Her Majesty's Government's privatisation policies.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Tim Renton)

Within the Cabinet Office and Office of Arts and Libraries, no civil servants have been affected by privatisation policies.

Mr. Michael

Is the Minister aware that, when some of the Export Credits Guarantee Department's operations were recentralised in Cardiff early last year, civil servants were promised that there would be no compulsory redundancies. Is he aware that some of those individuals are now threatened with compulsory redundancy? Does he accept that such matters cannot be left to the Export Credits Guarantee Department, nor to the Department of Trade and Industry, as the present and previous Secretaries of State of that Department are obsessive supporters of privatisation? Will he reassure the dedicated public servants who now work in the Export Credits Guarantee Department in Cardiff that he will take a personal interest in the matter and bring objectivity and humanity to the consideration of their individual futures, which cannot be trusted to come from those two Departments?

Mr. Renton

In his latter comment, the hon. Gentleman does an injustice to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade. As the Minister of State told him in Committee last week, the civil service has arrangements whereby staff who are surplus to requirements in one Department are given priority when filling vacancies in other Departments. I have no doubt that the Export Credits Guarantee Department would make use of those arrangements if the occasion arose. I understand that the present estimate of the number of staff likely to be needed by the privatised company is about 600. It is possible that there might be 10 or 20 surplus people in Cardiff, depending on the timing of privatisation. That is not a significant problem and I hope that everything will be done to find good alternative jobs for those people.

Mr. Dickens

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, because of the entrance examinations into the civil service and the calibre of personnel employed, it is likely that most of the privatised companies will wish to retain that excellent labour force? In the event of any of them having to go, does he agree that they are some of the most desirable employees in the labour market because of their great specialisations and their thorough vetting?

Mr. Renton

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. His comments are very supportive for civil servants who, as a result of privatisation or relocation, might wish to transfer from the civil service. They will be highly qualified to find good jobs elsewhere.