HC Deb 11 December 1995 vol 268 cc684-5
5. Sir David Knox

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many civil servants were employed by the Government or by Government agencies at the most recent count; and what was the figure in May 1979. [3283]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service (Mr. David Willetts)

In 1979, when we came to office, there were 735,000 civil servants. There are now 506,000—a fall of 31 per cent.

Sir David Knox

Does my hon. Friend anticipate that the progress in the reduction in the number of civil servants will continue? Does he have any targets?

Mr. Willetts

In the White Paper entitled "The Civil Service: Continuity and Change", the Government said that numbers would fall significantly below 500,000 by 1999. As my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary said in the Budget debate, we expect to pass that milestone next year—three years ahead of schedule. Continued firm control of Departments' running costs will ensure that the drive for increased efficiency does not lose momentum.

Mr. Hanson

Does the Minister believe that the loss of 200 civil service jobs in four locations in Wales which was announced at the weekend, coupled with the 31 per cent. decrease that he just announced, will help or hinder morale in the civil service, and therefore help or hinder the service that the public receive?

Mr. Willetts

The civil service can take pride in delivering important services with ever-greater efficiency.