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Departmental Efficiency And Productivity

Volume 981: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will cause an investigation to be made into the efficiency and productivity of his Department; and if he will make a statement.

Investigations into the efficiency and productivity of my Department are undertaken regularly. I understand that similar programmes are undertaken in the Manpower Services Commission, the Health and Safety Executive and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. I welcome all steps which can improve our record, and I should be grateful for any suggestions that the hon. Member might wish to make, and to know about areas in which his experience has revealed the need for action.

I assure the Secretary of State that I meant no disrespect to him and his office when I mistakenly wrote to the Secretary of State for Industry on 1 August 1979 about Statutory Instrument 1979, No. 1024, on behalf of a constituent's small firm. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that Minister, when replying to my application for a certificate of exemption, did not answer the very point that I made in my letter? I thank the right hon. Gentleman, who, on 19 February, sent me not only a full reply but the necessary road transport industry training board levy exemption and training scheme document, which sets out the criteria for exemption.

Order. I remind the House that these questions finish at 3.15 pm when we turn to Prime Minister's questions? Unless hon. Members are brief, I shall not be able to call many to ask supplementary questions.

I am grateful for the way in which the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) phrased his question. I apologise to him for what was an inadvertent mistake. The industrial training board procedure is being considered, and I hope that the matter will not arise again.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House by how many civil servants he expects to reduce his Department over the next three years, and what percentage that represents?

I cannot give the figure offhand, as much will depend on the level of employment. If my hon. Friend will help me to reduce the level of unemployment, we shall reduce the numbers even more quickly.

Will the Secretary of State accept that a reduction in manpower is not necessarily the same thing as an improvement in productivity and efficiency? Will he look particularly at the reductions of between 30 and 40 per cent. being made by the Manpower Services Commission in terms of the numbers of disablement rehabilitation officers and the severe effect that this will have on disabled people?

I am concerned about getting efficiency with the minimum number of people employed in the Department. I am certain that my Department can well afford to make contributions to reductions in manpower.