HC Deb 04 March 2004 vol 418 cc1048-50
13. Mr. Gwyn Prosser (Dover) (Lab)

What measures he is taking to address low pay in the civil service. [158479]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey)

It is up to individual Departments to determine their own pay and grading systems. Then, through the pay remits system, they are provided with the means to deal with the particular recruitment and retention problems that they face.

Mr. Prosser

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I appreciate that the Chancellor's record on tackling poverty is second to none, but how is that reconciled with the rigid capping of pay offers, especially in the Department for Work and Pensions, to low-paid civil servants, whose pay barely keeps up with the statutory minimum wage and whose take-home pay the Public and Commercial Services Union describes as "poverty pay"? Will my hon. Friend meet me and colleagues to find ways of paying those hard-working people a fair day's pay for a fair day's work?

John Healey

Of course I am happy to meet my hon. Friend and members of the PCS.

We are proud of our investment in public services and of what we have been able to do to get those who work and serve in the public services fairer pay and treatment. I stress to my hon. Friend that part of our job is to ensure that pay budgets across Government are realistic, affordable and directed towards improving services. That is why we are considering the efficiency review, relocating civil servants out of London and the south-east, and increasing local pay flexibility. Above all, Labour's monetary policy framework, which the Tories opposed, has led us to the longest period of sustained low inflation since the 1960s. Wage bargainers can now plan with the sort of confidence that they could not previously entertain. In those circumstances, I hope that we can deal with the concerns of my hon. Friend and the PCS.