HL Deb 30 March 1977 vol 381 cc1027-8WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will state the number of civil servants now employed in London; what degree of dispersal they expect to achieve during the next five years; and whether they will publish preliminary proposals for the economic and convenient accommodation in suitable buildings of the civil servants remaining in London, having due regard to the preservation of historic and beautiful buildings in the Whitehall area.

Baroness BIRK

The number of civil servants now employed in London is about 149,000. Although a total of 31,000 posts are expected to be dispersed over the whole programme, the economic measures announced last December have affected plans for the building programme connected with dispersal, and the whole timetable is currently under review. It is likely, however, that the main effects on the London Government Office Estate will not be felt before 1982.

Preliminary work has already begun on considering how rationalisation of the Government Estate after dispersal can best be achieved. It has not yet been possible to start detailed planning since all the individual dispersing posts have not yet been identified by Departments. However, our intention is to reduce the cost of the London Office Estate and also improve the efficiency of departmental holdings for those staff who remain in London.

The Whitehall area, as well as being close to the Houses of Parliament, contains a far higher proportion of Crown-owned office buildings than other parts of London. Therefore in any post-dispersal rationalisation both the convenience of the location and the need to reduce the amount of leased accommodation elsewhere will ensure that the major Government buildings in Whitehall con tinue to be used by Government Depart ments. In addition, many of these buildings are of historic importance for which the Department of the Environment has a further responsibility. Several of their facades have recently been cleaned and restored, and we have announced our intention of restoring the façade of Richmond Terrace as well.