asked the Minister for the Civil Service on how many occasions he met representatives of the Civil Service unions in 1984.
Other than informally, on seven occasions.
As we have the most dedicated and efficient and the least corrupt Civil Service in the world, would it not be fair and reasonable for our Civil Service to have some pay procedure to guarantee civil servants a fair deal in pay and conditions so that they do not have to resort to the industrial action that they all thoroughly deplore?
I endorse the compliment paid to the Civil Service by my hon. Friend. On the question of an agreed system for examining Civil Service pay, my hon. Friend will recall that we had a report from the Megaw commission. The Government remain willing to discuss such matters—there have already been many discussions — to try to find some satisfactory system for determining Civil Service pay.
Whatever the unions said about the pernicious experiment with merit awards, is not the brutal truth of the matter that those who give honest and careful but unpalatable advice to Ministers are potentially at a disadvantage as compared to ministerial arse-lickers?
No, there is nothing to suggest that that is true.
Can my hon. Friend say whether there is a ban on secondments to the Civil Service? If so, will the ban be temporary?
I have seen reports to that effect in some of today's papers. So far as I am aware, they are pure speculation.
Has the Minister had a meeting with the unions about civil servants and the closing of the skillcentres? If so, would he care to tell us what he said at the meeting? We know that many of the skillcentres to be closed are profitable.
That matter was not raised at any of my meetings with the Civil Service unions. If the unions had wished to discuss the matter, it would have been appropriate for them to raise it with the Secretary of State for Employment.
As the Civil Service Minister, is the hon. Gentleman responsible for answering questions about Mr. Levene?
That would depend on the question. Broadly speaking, as Mr. Levene is working with the Ministry of Defence, I believe that most questions would properly be addressed to the Secretary of State for Defence. If the question is relevant to my responsibilities, I shall of course answer it, as I always do.