HC Deb 26 April 2004 vol 420 cc617-8
1. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab)

If he will make a statement on how the Lyons review on relocation will affect his Department. [167675]

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith)

Eighty-two per cent. of the Department for Work and Pensions' work force is already located outside London and the south-east, compared with 71 per cent. of the population. Taking account of the Lyons review, we are planning to relocate some 4,000 posts. As the Department substantially reduces its total work force over the next few years, we intend to concentrate activity on a smaller number of sites. Work relocated is likely, therefore, to be moved to existing DWP sites.

Hugh Bayley

Is my right hon. Friend aware of how well York has coped with a number of Government Departments wishing to move additional jobs into the city, including his own Department, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs? Is he willing to ask his officials to meet representatives of the York inward investment board—and perhaps some senior managers of Government agencies that have moved to York—and to look at York's feasibility as a location for the redeployment of some of the 4,000 jobs to which he refers?

Mr. Smith

As the House would expect, my hon. Friend is a persuasive and energetic advocate of the case for inward investment in his constituency. At the risk of setting our officials up for an entire sequence of meetings with similar bodies elsewhere, I am happy to agree to the meeting that he suggests. I do, however, offer one word of caution. As the House will be aware, our Department is scheduled to reduce total staff numbers by some 40,000—a net 30,000—by 2008, so it is likely that there will be staff reductions in a number of parts of the country.

Sir Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (LD)

That is exactly the point. As the Secretary of State points out, the Budget that followed the Lyons review announced yearly reductions of 6 per cent. between now and 2008, which will have a very serious effect on staffing throughout the Department and its agencies. The Lyons review asked for a timetable for the implementation of the redeployments proposed before the Budget. When will it be available, and when will he look at the irreducible core of the 2,500 London-based civil servants in his Department?

Mr. Smith

On the last point, of course, all such matters are a feature of the review of our overall staff numbers. On the timetable, I shall make further information available on overall staff reductions, and on relocations in the light of the Lyons review, following the spending review. The hon. Gentleman and the House will understand that managing change on this scale—it is virtually unprecedented in the white collar public sector—has to involve the most careful planning, and careful consultation and discussion with our staff and trade unions, as well as with the managers who must carry it out.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton) (Con)

The Secretary of State says that there needs to be careful planning and consultation. Did it take place before he made his announcement?

Mr. Smith

As the hon. Gentleman will know, of the total number of reductions announced, some 18,000 had already been discussed with the trade unions and were being planned by the Department. Of course, as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Sir Archy Kirkwood), before any decisions are taken concerning the announcement's implications for individual centres or members of staff, further discussions with the trade unions will take place.