HL Deb 03 August 1966 vol 276 cc1301-3

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many civil servants were employed on 27th October, 1964, how many are employed to-day, and how many they expect to be employed in 12 months' time.]


My Lords, at the nearest available dates, the Civil Service, excluding the Post Office, numbered at October 1, 1964, 654,861; and on April 1, 1966, 661,986. The original Estimate for 1966–67 provided for an increase of just over 13,000 staff during the following twelve months. New policies which could not be reflected in those Estimates may bring this figure up to 17,000.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that revealing and interesting Answer. May I ask him two supplementary questions?—and I should like to make it quite clear that, in doing so, I am not in any way criticising members of the Civil Service. First, can I ask the noble Lord whether he thinks this considerable increase since the Government came to power, and the further increase that is foreshadowed, are really justified in present economic conditions? My second question is this. In the light of the selective employment tax, which is designed to compel more workers into productive industry, does the noble Lord think the Government are setting a good example?


My Lords, the Government always set a good example. The question is whether this can be justified in present economic conditions. We think so, otherwise we should not have made this provision. I must point out that the increase is partly due to an arbitration award in July, 1964, which cut the hours of parts of the Civil Service. For example, in the Inland Revenue there was an increase of 4,036 between October, 1964, and July last, of which nearly 41 per cent. was due to these cuts in hours. The selective employment tax is a matter which we shall be considering in close detail, I imagine, next week, and I am sure the points the noble Lord has made in this connection will be considered on that day and they will be considered by the Government.


My Lords, surely the noble Lord realises that when other industries have to give shorter hours of work they ensure some improvement in the actual working, which absorbs this. This is constantly the cry of Her Majesty's Government. Cannot they do it themselves?


My Lords, this is something that is not really happening. Over the period June, 1964, to January, 1966, employment in the financial, professional and scientific services in the private sector went up by 145,000. This was slightly under 5 per cent. The figures I have given show that the Civil Service increase was slightly over 1 per cent. These two services which I am talking about are to some extent comparable, though not wholly so.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not consider that the increase he has just mentioned is largely due to Government legislation?


My Lords, Government legislation often has this effect. Yesterday I rather think the noble Lord, and certainly his noble friends, went into the Division Lobby and supported two Amendments, both of which, if added finally to the Bill, will result in an increase to the Civil Service.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in the last four to five years of the Conservative Government there was a considerable increase in the number of civil servants? And is there not a considerable increase throughout industry generally, both distributive and productive, in the amount of paper work and the number of clerks?


My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. But, of course, I was not, fortunately, answering for the Conservative Governments of the past.

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