HL Deb 06 November 1975 vol 365 cc1371-4

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 they justify starting salaries for Inland Revenue Cadet Valuers at figures approximately 50 per cent. above what they would command in the private sector.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, I have seen nothing which demonstrates that the staff concerned are recruited at salaries generally in excess of those paid in the private sector. Fair comparison with the middle range of outside rates is the fundamental principle of Civil Service pay determination, although for the present the Civil Service pay research system is suspended. The grade of Cadet Valuers—though not itself subject to pay research in view of the small numbers involved—is linked with the pay researched grade of Executive Officer, and paid within limits set by the rates paid to the grades of Valuer and Valuation Clerks which are also based on pay research comparisons.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Will Her Majesty's Government acquaint themselves with the going rates in the private sector, which I have here, as provided by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors? Secondly, will the Minister agree, if the rates are much higher in Government service, as they are, that this is a place where public expenditure could well be cut down for the general benefit?


No, my Lords. I am well aware of the recommended rates of the Institute, which are below those of a Clerical Officer who enters the Service with only five O levels. In the case of the Cadet Valuer, he enters the Service with two A levels which he has to achieve at one sitting. From our research, we certainly do not regard this staff as being generally paid in excess of those in the private sector.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that this differential between the private and public sectors applies not only to school leavers; it also applies to non-cognate and cognate graduates? Will he please undertake to look into this matter again, because it is a very sad situation if we are spending unnecessary money in the public sector where the rates are far above the private sector


My Lords, over along period of time, we have built up a system of pay research and fair comparison between those working within the Civil Service and those working outside. Certainly, at the request of the noble Lord, I shall look into this matter further. But I have to say to him that the basis upon which the Civil Service is paid is one that I should not in any way lightly seek to change.


My Lords, can there be any objection in society to the fact that the State is a better employer than private enterprise?


My Lords, I should hope that the State would always be a good and fair employer. That is what we have sought to achieve during the past 12 months.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that certain salaries are based on the Fulton Report, that everyone is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, and that, very often, the Civil Service fails to recruit because the pay is not enough?


My Lords, that is so. I should perhaps add in regard to the Question on the Order Paper, that the pay to which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, referred is the recommended starting rate. I think that it varies very widely across the country according to demand, and that is why I used the word "generally" in my original Answer.


My Lords, will the Minister agree that over many years a great deal of money has been lost to the country by the understaffing of the Inland Revenue, and that considerable trouble and anxiety has been caused to individuals for the same reason, because they could not get answers to their letters? Therefore, is it not very necessary that the Inland Revenue should pay adequate comparative salaries?


I agree, my Lords.


My Lords, does my noble friend who is responsible for the working of the Civil Service from his Ministerial Office, agree that the Whitley machinery has become almost obsolete? Does he also agree that it is time that the machinery was looked at, because it does not give the true comparison which one would like to see? Finally is my noble friend aware that we arc becoming absolutely tired of being reminded about pay research, comparability and analogues, and that that is rather getting away from the question by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, asset down on the Order Paper?


My Lords, my noble friend goes a little wider when he refers to the Whitley machinery. But I say to him that the pay research procedures have been changed, modified and improved over the years, and I believe that the recent changes—which dealt with what is known as "time lag" and made "fair comparison" more meaningful—show the flexibility of the machinery and the way in which we try to give a fair deal to our civil servants, and help to ensure that the Government, as it should be, is a good and fair employer.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that many people in this country feel that, at the moment, the Civil Service is a privileged élite, with their inflation-proof pensions and "non-sackability", and that therefore there is, perhaps, needed a slight lowering of salaries vis-à-vis people who do not have inflation-proof pensions or complete security of tenure in their jobs?


My Lords, it may be that today the civil servant has greater security than those employed in the private sector. But it was not so many years ago that the civil servant was paid a good deal less than the salary available for a comparable post in the private sector. I personally believe that we have the right basis today, and I would not therefore accept the suggestion of the noble Earl.


My Lords, may I ask, finally, whether in view of the very important, almost judicial, nature of the work that these Valuers have to do, they ought to be paid a salary which enables them to carry out those duties with strict impartiality?


My Lords, these are cadets who come into the Service and, in the main, fortunately, remain with us and go on to occupy senior posts. I think that is an indication that we have what is about the right basis. If that was the last supplementary question, perhaps I may suggest that we move to the next Question.

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