HL Deb 11 March 1982 vol 428 cc301-2
Lord Boyd-Carpenter

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 are employed full-time and part-time respectively on work on behalf of trade unions; and what is the annual cost to public funds.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Young)

My Lords, it is estimated that 287 non-industrial civil servants are engaged full-time as union representatives on industrial relations duties and trade union activities. A further 383 spend more than half of their time in these ways; and some 11,300 less than half. The current annual cost of the paid time-off arrangements is estimated at £12.3 million. These arrangements are part of the 1974 National Whitley Council Agreement on Facilities for Non-Industrial Union Representatives. As the result of a review of the operation of that agreement, it is currently being renegotiated with the unions concerned to provide improved control among other things.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, while I thank my noble friend for that extremely interesting Answer, is this an area of Government expenditure which is being critically looked at?

Baroness Young

My Lords, yes. The agreement is being critically looked at in order to give greater control and accountability.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, on the opposite side of the coin, is there any help to employers and the CBI from these valuable civil servants?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am not quite sure that I fully understand the import of the noble Lord's question. I cannot comment on industrial relations in other industries.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, can my noble friend say what formula is adopted to adjudge what is half of their time and whether or not the unions ever make any contribution to the "half-times" for the cost of the work they do.

Baroness Young

My Lords, my understanding is that this would depend on the circumstances. Different departments would, of course, have different arrangements.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the maintenance of good industrial relations is dependent on involvement of employees in the affairs of the company in which they are involved, whether as civil servants or private enterprise employees, and that the release of people in this field is extremely important to good industrial relations?

Baroness Young

My Lords, yes, I would entirely agree with what the noble Lord has said. Indeed, it is our wish to have good industrial relations. In fact, our agreement gives more than that which would be essential under the terms of the trade union legislation.

Lord Cooper of Stockton Heath

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether, in conveying this request for information to the appropriate quarters, she might also appreciate and take notice of the fact that trade unions, in fact, spend a great deal of time and manpower on Government work and that this is not at all a one-sided activity. In fact, most of us in the industrial world have encouraged tripartite examination of problems. There is not an industrial problem that arises without the TUC being consulted as to the effect on the workforce.

Baroness Young

My Lords, in answer to that question, of course, the circumstances in each department of the Civil Service would vary, but it is generally estimated that 85 per cent. of the time that is taken up in these discussions is on matters related to industrial relations, and about 15 per cent. of the time is spent on trade union activities.

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