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Civil Service

Volume 887: debated on Monday 3 March 1975

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Non-Industrial Staff


asked the Minister for the Civil Service what study has been made with a view to introducing incentive schemes into the non-industrial Civil Service.

The development of suitable incentives is a continuing element in the management of the non-industrial Civil Service. Information about the incentives offered in the private sector is currently being collected by the Pay Research Unit and I shall consider the matter further when this information is available.

Does the Minister agree that there is need now for a really imaginative widespread scheme which could increase incomes, job satisfaction and efficiency and, perhaps, reduce numbers as well?

The Department is constantly aware of the need to examine incentives. We do not agree entirely that financial incentives are the only means of increasing productivity. As the hon. Gentleman rightly indicated, job satisfaction and other factors are equally important.

Will the Minister give an assurance that there will be no productivity scheme which will provide incentives for VAT inspectors to harass and intimidate small traders?


asked the Minister for the Civil Service what were the numbers of non-industrial civil servants in the United Kingdom on 1st January 1975, 1st January 1974, 1st January 1973 and 1st January 1972, respectively.


asked the Minister for the Civil Service what have been the annual increases or decreases in each of the last four years in the number of non-industrial civil servants.

The numbers in each case were: 1972, 504,000—an increase of 5,000; 1973, 504,000—no change; 1974, 511,000—an increase of 7,000; 1975, 517,000—an increase of 6,000.

Bearing in mind the increase in the number of non-industrial civil servants which that reply reveals, and also the fact that there have been 30,000 transfers out and only 10,000 transfers in during the period, will the Minister say what is the Government's policy in regard to the future numbers of civil servants who will be administering our country?

The Government's policy in regard to the number of civil servants will be decided on the policies and administrative burdens which this Parliament gives the Civil Service to undertake.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the assemblies to which he has been referring as being set up in Wales and Scotland will require an enormous increase in the Civil Service employment force, under whatever guise it appears, and that that will mean considerable cost for either the people of Scotland and Wales or the people of the United Kingdom in general?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the factors which the House will take into consideration in its approach to the policy on devolution.



asked the Minister for the Civil Service what steps are being taken by the Civil Service Department to facilitate the implementation of the Government's proposals for devolution to Scotland and Wales.

My Department is playing a full part in helping to work out and implement the administrative arrangements to support the measures of devolution to Scotland and Wales which are finally agreed.

Does the Minister accept that if devolution to Scotland is to be successful it will be necessary, at the very least, for the existing Civil Service Departments at St. Andrew's House to be put under the authority of the new Scottish Assembly?

I am mindful of the hon. Gentleman's long-term interest in this subject. I hope that he will accept that it would be premature to reach a firm view of the supporting administrative arrangements which are required for devolution until a clear picture has emerged of the constitutional framework within which the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies will discharge their respective functions.

What do the civil servants' unions in the first division of the Civil Service say about being subjected to a Scottish Assembly?

I can assure my hon. Friend that preliminary discussions are currently proceeding with the National Staff Side and the Departmental Whitley Staff Sides on administrative arrangements which may be involved by the devolution policies of the Government in respect of Scotland and Wales.

Has the Minister given consideration to the implementation of the administrative changes which will be necessary when Scotland gets full self-government and not just devolution?

I have indicated that until such time as the constitutional framework is determined by Parliament it would be premature to determine the administrative framework.

Does my hon. Friend agree that after the establishment of assemblies in Cardiff and Edinburgh, it is very important that there should continue to be interchangeability as between civil servants in Whitehall, Edinburgh and Cardiff?

That is a very important point. The interests of civil servants will no doubt receive detailed consideration by the House in its consideration of this issue.

Northern Region


asked the Minister for the Civil Service what further plans he has for the dispersal of Civil Service employment to the Northern Region.

The programme announced by the Lord President on 30th July last involves the dispersal of nearly 4,000 posts from London to the Northern Region and the setting up, subject to parliamentary approval, of a child allowance scheme centre in Washington New Town, comprising about 2,000 posts. There are no plans for further dispersal of Civil Service work to the Northern Region at present.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but when is the child allowance scheme office likely to be opened at Washington New Town, in my constituency? Does he not accept that far more tax work could be dispersed to the development areas?

I certainly accept the urgency of dispersing civil servants to the Northern Region, but the individual questions which my hon. Friend has now put are really questions for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Will the Minister bear in mind that the forced dispersal of civil servants without adequate consultation would go against the spirit of worker participation?

Yes. I certainly give my hon. Friend the assurance that there will be full and adequate consultation, both with the National Staff Side and with the Departmental Staff Sides of the individual Departments concerned.

"Civil Servants And Change" (Report)


asked the Minister for the Civil Service what steps he proposes to take to implement the proposals for action by his Department set out in the report "Civil Servants and Change".

My officials are already working out the way forward on the measures indicated in the report, including the strengthening of line management, a review of the administration of staff rules, and improved interdepartmental promotion opportunities. The Civil Service Department will also be assisting Departments, as appropriate, in their evaluation of their own domestic follow-up programmes. Work is continuing in areas where results have already been achieved, including flexible working hours, job satisfaction studies, and the office improvement programme.

Will my hon. Friend pay particular attention to the proposal that artificial barriers to the promotion of technically qualified and specialist staff—which I note his Department now admits to exist—should be removed, and will he report progress to the House?

My hon. Friend has a great knowledge of this matter. I assure him that the Civil Service Department is working to remove the artificial barriers to which he has referred in order to reach the general objective of improved unified grading.

Will my hon. Friend agree to change the conditions of employment of civil servants so that they can be given paid absence from work to the same extent as Sir Christopher Soames, so that they may take part in the EEC referendum campaign?

I have no responsibility for the conditions under which Sir Christopher Soames is at present employed.

Accountancy Service


asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he has yet appointed a head of profession of the Accountancy Service in the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement.

No appointment has yet been made of a head of the Government Accountancy Service. The recent advertisements did not produce a suitable candidate but it remains the intention to fill the post.

Is the Minister aware that this matter has been hanging fire ever since the Melville-Burney Report in 1973, and that there is a pressing need for revision of the Treasury's rules for accounting, which has been hanging fire since 1873?

I certainly accept the urgency of the points made by the hon. Gentleman. I assure him that discussions are currently proceeding with representatives of the profession concerned to see whether we can identify a possible area in which we can get men of the requisite talents and abilities to fill these posts.

Scottish Assembly


asked the Minister for the Civil Service what consultations he has had with the Civil Service unions and the First Minister of the Civil Service on the proposal to subject civil servants in Scotland to a Scottish Assembly.

No decisions have yet been reached on the supporting administrative arrangements for devolution to a Scottish Assembly. There have been preliminary discussions between the officials and staff sides at both national and departmental level on the implications of devolution for the Civil Service and the staff associations have been assured that there will be full consultations with them on this.

Is there a clear undertaking that at all stages there will be discussions?

I am happy to give my hon. Friend the undertaking that as far as practicable I shall seek to ensure that adequate and full discussion is afforded the staff at each stage of the discussion of the administrative arrangements which will flow from devolution.