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Public Sector Manpower And Resources

Volume 17: debated on Sunday 11 April 1982

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration he is giving to recent Confederation of British Industry proposals for a more efficient use of manpower and resources in the public sector.

I have warmly welcomed the report of the CBI working party on Government expenditure. The Government have made further reductions in planned public services manpower and administrative costs, as my right hon. and learned Friend announced on 2 December. We are pursuing many of the points which were made in the report and have welcomed the CBI's offers of continuing interest and practical help.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree with the CBI that we could save almost £3.5 billion by 1984 if we cut out the overmanning and inefficiency in the public sector? When will we make some progress in that area?

I do not necessarily accept my hon. Friend's figures, but I agree that there is a great deal of progress to be made in that direction. I welcome the fact that the Civil Service has been reduced by more than 50,000 since the Government took office. It is now smaller than at any time for more than 14 years. I am sure that we can make further progress in that direction.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that his refusal to accept the figure of £3.5 billion savings is shared by the CBI, whose document was so poorly argued that one of its leading members, Sir Leo Pliatzky, resigned before it was produced? The CBI's latest assessment calls for lower savings. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman looks at the CBI's plans for private profiteering and privatisation, will he examine carefully the report disclosed in Monday's Financial Times, which claimed that the ratepayers of Southend, far from benefiting from privatisation of certain services, had been conned and that the real effect on them is not a saving, but a cost of £700.

It is not for me to defend the CBI report, but I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's remarks about it. I am not aware of any withdrawal from the report by the CBI. I found the recommendations of the CBI, for example on accounting methods, on increasing responsibility in line management and Government, and for the contracting out of local government services, extremely valuable. I hope that we can move along those lines.