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Employment Relocation (Consultation)

Volume 895: debated on Monday 7 July 1975

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asked the Minister for the Civil Service whether he is satisfied with the consultation procedures for Civil Service personnel who are being asked to change their place of work.

Yes, Sir. The Civil Service Department has a joint committee with the national staff side for the discussion of dispersal problems. Dispersing Departments similarly are in close touch with their departmental staff sides.

Does the Minister agree that there are certain specialised skills in the Civil Service which often have limited alternative opportunities in the private sector, and that it seems very unfair if such people are forced to relocate when it might be inconvenient for them to do so for family or personal reasons? Is he aware that they are then in a position of having to resign from the Civil Service without redundancy benefit and without adequate alternative employment?

Non-mobile grades—clerical officers and grades below and their equivalents—will not be required to disperse but may volunteer to do so. As for mobile grades of staff above the executive officer and equivalent level, it is the Government's intention that where possible they should be transferred only on a voluntary basis, but in some cases there will be no work of the same type left in London after dispersal. This is a fact of life which the Government are seeking to deal with.

Has my hon. Friend consulted the staff of his Department and of Her Majesty's Stationery Office in Norwich about the apparently obstructive attitude towards the expansion of public service opportunities in Norwich by the Norwich County Council?

The issue to which my hon. Friend referred is a matter of concern to the Civil Service Department. We were grateful for the action which my hon. Friend took in drawing public attention to this particular difficulty.

What is the point of consultation if the Government do not intend to pay the slightest heed to the wishes of the people consulted? Is it not clear that the Government intend to move the directorate of Overseas Surveys to Glasgow although the people who work in it wish to stay in London?

I do not wish to give the impression that the Government as an employer are impervious to the wishes and understandable domestic difficulties which civil servants in London who are subject to dispersal are likely to encounter as a consequence of the dispersal policy. However, the Government have a responsibility to the nation in relation to the dispersal of Civil Service posts. Their policy is to disperse 31,000 Civil Service posts over the next 10 years.

As the Government are committed within the fairly near future to setting up an Assembly in Edinburgh, what consultation is going on about the rundown of the London Civil Service in that event? Is it intended that personnel should be transferred from London to Edinburgh?

Any final arrangements for the creation of a separate Civil Service in connection with the establishment of the Assembly in Scotland will have to await the working out of the constitutional framework.

There is an obvious solution to the points raised by the hon. Members for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) and Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), and that is to provide Civil Service job opportunities in Scotland, particularly Glasgow. The people of Scotland will not be too happy about the remarks of the two hon. Members because Scottish families have been unrooted for decade after decade.

It is because we are concerned about the unemployment situation in Glasgow, Merseyside, the North-East and elsewhere that we are determined to honour our commitment to disperse the Civil Service to these regional locations.