§ Mr. Channon
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the relocation of HM Customs and Excise headquarters work from the south-east to the north-west is proceeding to timetable; and if he will make a statement.
§ Sir John Cope
To date 350 Customs and Excise headquarters posts have been relocated on schedule to Liverpool and 270 to Manchester from London and Southend. But organisational changes, efficiency savings and market testing are significantly reducing the size of the Department's central operations and particularly its ability to absorb surplus staff in Southend. In addition, turnover of the Department's staff at Southend is at an historic low and the planned changes would therefore lead to considerable compulsory redundancy. The board of Customs and Excise has therefore reviewed its relocation programme. The board and I have decided to rephase the programme by creating in Liverpool some 300 more posts in the next phase rather than the 850 extra posts previously planned.
This rephasing not only represents best value for money for the taxpayer but also strikes a balance between the need for jobs both in Southend and Liverpool and the business needs of Customs and Excise. The position in Southend will, however, be reviewed in four years' time, in 1997, in the light of the economic situation and job prospects in both Southend and Liverpool.
I recognise that this decision will be disappointing for the people of Merseyside and for the many organisations which have worked with Customs and Excise to make a success of relocation. But I do not believe that it would have been acceptable to have continued with a relocation programme which would have created new jobs in Liverpool but which in the changed circumstances would have left some hundreds of people in Southend facing compulsory redundancy. Customs and Excise will still be a major employer on Merseyside with more than 1,000 staff and a major headquarters office.
The number of households with negative equity (thousand) 1988Q4 1989Q4 1990Q4 1991Q4 1992Q4 North — — 0 20 100 South — 20 190 320 930 Total — 20 190 340 1,030
Note: The South is defined as Greater London, South East, East Anglia, South West, East and West Midlands. The North includes the rest of the United Kingdom.232W