HL Deb 19 October 1981 vol 424 cc687-8WA
Lord Sefton of Garston

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether it is true that a report has been produced which recommends that the offices of the DHSS in Liverpool and Manchester should be merged, and whether they will give an assurance that if this is done no jobs will be lost in Merseyside and that any centralisation will be based in that county.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Elton)

A report by a team of Departmental officials entitledTraffic in Social Security Work Between DHSS Local and Regional Offices and Headquarters was completed in early September. (A copy has been placed in the Library.) The report contains a number of recommendations for streamlining the handling of social security business and improving cost-effectiveness by devolving certain work concerned with the administration of benefits from regional to local levels. These are being studied in detail and firm proposals for change will be brought forward in due course. The only decision which has been taken so far is to reduce the number of social security regions from 12 to seven. This decision was advanced in order that the process of combining the existing regions could be tied in with the retirement dates of regional controllers; the majority of those presently in post will be leaving the Civil Service between now and March 1983. At this level, as at all others, the intention is that any run-down of staff which may be necessary should be achieved through natural wastage.

So far as the North-West is concerned, it has been decided to integrate Cumbria, at present part of Northern Region, into Merseyside Region in March 1982, and to merge that with Manchester Region in March 1983. The siting of the Headquarters of this new region will be a matter for detailed consultation within and between the existing regions, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services expects proposals to be put to him in due course. The merger is unlikely to mean the complete disappearance of either of the existing regional offices, since some functions will continue to be exercised from both. There will, however, be an overall reduction over a period of time of about a third in the number of staff employed in the two regional offices.

House adjourned at quarter past ten o'clock.