HL Deb 04 June 1980 vol 409 cc1421-3

2.54 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 whether in seeking greater efficiency and further economy in the Civil Service they will regard as a special category those parts of the service directly involved in encouraging wealth creation, particularly in supporting small businesses.


My Lords, in seeking greater efficiency and further economy in the Civil Service, Ministers will be looking across all the activities of their departments. Their detailed plans will take into account both the need for those activities and the scope for making them both simpler and more efficient.


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Will he also agree that, in a number of services which contribute directly to the efficiency of wealth-creating organisations in this country, it is also a question of choosing the pace at which reductions, if they are to be made, are in fact made? My noble friend will perhaps recall the Agricultural Development Advisory Service, over which he once presided, as being a service which cannot easily be removed at a stroke.


My Lords, of course my noble friend will appreciate that this is very much a matter for the individual Ministers concerned. It is not for the judgment of the Minister responsible for the day-to-day happenings in the Civil Service Department as to what should be cut or run down in which department. However, I know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will, of course, take note of what my noble friend has said.


My Lords, will the noble Lord remember that he still has a major responsibility, as I had when holding his present office? The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has mentioned agriculture. We are worried about it, because in one period at a stroke the Conservative Government destroyed the morale of the advisory service by restrictions. I know that the noble Lord agrees with me.


My Lords, what the noble Lord is talking about happened such a long time ago that I do not remember it, so I do not agree with him.


My Lords, can the noble Lord explain why the Government have decided to dispense with the services of a body of civil servants, and that we now discover that there is a section responsible for wealth creation? What is this wealth creation about? Can he explain the matter to me?


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, will understand that it was not I who tabled the Question. My noble friend Lord Sandford refers particularly to supporting small businesses, which are certainly very wealth-creative.


My Lords, will the noble Lord not agree that the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas, COSIRA, has shown outstanding returns in terms of value for money? Will he take a firm stand against any intention from his friends to cut down on COSIRA? Indeed, does he not feel that we should be justified in setting up an urban version of COSIRA to help small firms in the towns?


My Lords, I know that the noble Lord will understand me when I say that my noble friend the Minister of State for Industry will, I am sure, take note of what he says. Of course, he will. However, it is not for me to say whether or not a certain priority will be given within a department to one aspect or another of its work.