HL Deb 17 March 1976 vol 369 cc222-4

3.1 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 which Government Departments show a reduction in the total of: (a) industrial; and (b) non-industrial civil servants in post as between October 1975 and March 1974, or between similar convenient dates.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, the following seven Government Departments showed a net reduction in the total number of industrial civil servants in post as between 1st March 1974 and 1st January 1976, which is the latest figure available: Ministry of Defence; Department of the Environment; Department for National Savings; Scottish Office; Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Civil Service Department, and the Inland Revenue.

Between the same dates, the following five Departments showed a net reduction in the total number of non-industrial civil servants in post: Ordnance Survey; General Register Office, Scotland; Public Trustee Office; Civil Service Pay Reseach Unit, and the Scottish Record Office. The Department of Energy showed a net reduction in both the number of industrial and non-industrial staff in post.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. May I ask him to use his best endeavours to see that that list is longer the next time I have a chance of asking a Question? The Departments concerned are, by and large, only those whose staff is in smaller numbers, whereas in these times it would surely be very much in the interests of the economy that those who employ large numbers of civil servants should also figure in the noble Lord's next list.


My Lords, I have a good deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord has said. He will be aware that my Department and I are at the present moment looking to find ways by which we can cut the continuing growth of the Civil Service. I can only say to the noble Lord that perhaps the greatest growth in public servants is a consequence of the past Administration's legislation on the reform of local authorities. It is what Parliament puts upon the Service, and not what the Service itself creates, that influences the position.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House, with all this clamour to reduce the number of civil servants, what we are to do with these unemployed civil servants?


My Lords, at the present moment I am not anticipating redundancy within the Civil Service. What we are seeking to do is to curb the continual growth within the Service.


My Lords, does my noble friend agree that figures about the growth or reduction of the Civil Service from year to year tell us nothing? What we want to know is the trend in the size of the payroll in real terms, because we know that whenever there has been pressure to reduce the Civil Service in the past, what has happened is that the Civil Service has used part-time, temporary and contracting-out services in order to obviate the trend. When are we likely to get figures for what is happening to part-time, temporary and contracting-out services?


My Lords, my noble friend will appreciate that I have to answer the Question on the Order Paper. If he wishes to know the trend and puts down a Question, I will certainly give it to him. I agree with my noble friend that there is little point in seeking to cut the number of full-time civil servants, as has been done in the past, only to employ people through outside agencies. One can always cook the books, but I should not want to be party to such an operation.


My Lords, may I take it from my noble friend's Answer that the trade unions have been taken into consultation about this cut-back? Also, is such a cut-back in accordance with the Whitley machinery, which operates on behalf of the Civil Service unions in this country?


My Lords, consultations will be through the Whitley procedure, and they are now going on with the Staff Side. But I would say to my noble friend that at the present moment no decision has been taken as to where this curb will take place. We are seeking to identify the areas where cuts can be made in the growth, without in any way damaging the general service that is provided by the Civil Service.