HC Deb 30 July 1981 vol 9 c513W
Mr. Watson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a further statement about his proposals for departmental organisation in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins

In my reply to a question by the hon. Member on 19 March I announced that I was proposing to merge the control functions of the Northern Ireland Departments of Finance and of the Civil Service and was examining how this merger would be put into effect.

I now propose to set up a Department of Finance and Personnel. This would be responsible for resource planning for the whole range of my functions in Northern Ireland, for control of both money and manpower in respect of the Northern Ireland Departments, and also for all the other general personnel matters at present the responsibility of the Department of the Civil Service. This means that it would compromise all the functions—and staff—of that Department and the financial planning, control and economic and social research divisions of the existing Department of Finance. Most of the divisions concerned with the miscellaneous functions of the existing Department of Finance would be transferred to other Departments. Principal among these are works division, ordnance survey, rating division, the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds which would be transferred to the Department of the Environment (NI); the Public Record Office to the Department of Education; and the General Register Office and miscellaneous licensing functions to the Department of Health and Social Services. The valuation office, Ulster savings, the office of law reform and charities branch which are at present the responsibility of the Department of Finance would be included in the Department of Finance and Personnel. The staff organisations have been informed of these proposals.

I will in due course be publishing a proposal for an Order in Council constituting the Department of Finance and Personnel and carrying through the transfer of functions with the aim that the changes should become effective on 1 April 1982.

I am satisfied in the light of the review of social affairs that no major departmental reorganisation is required, but I propose to improve the existing machinery of coordination between the Departments with responsibility in the field of social affairs to ensure the development of more cohesive policies and the most effective overall use of resources.

I am still considering the recommendations in the review of the organisation required to deal with economic development and will be making an announcement as soon as possible.

As I stated previously my overall objective is to improve the machinery of government in Northern Ireland and make it more accountable to my direction and control. I am confident that the changes proposed will be important steps towards that objective.