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Trade Unions (Meetings)

Volume 78: debated on Monday 29 April 1985

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asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the Civil Service trade unions; and what subjects were discussed.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave him on 18 February about my last meeting with the Civil Service unions on 4 December 1984. My right hon. and noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster met representatives of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants on 2 April to hear their views in favour of extending unified grading in the Civil Service.

Is the Minister aware that four Civil Service unions are tomorrow meeting the Secretary of State for Employment to argue their case for their pay claim to be put to arbitration, which has been refused by the Treasury? Will the Minister support the unions in that modest request?

I hope to be present at the meeting with the unions. The determination of their request for arbitration is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and I would not seek to prejudge what will happen at the meeting.

Has the Minister discussed with the Civil Service unions the possibility of a better and longer term method of determining Civil Service pay, including some element of fair comparison?

Yes. Following publication of the Megaw report, the Government made it clear that they believed that negotiations should take place on long-term arrangements for determining Civil Service pay, based on the Megaw report. The Government's intention was that those negotiations should succeed. In fact, the negotiations ceased at the beginning of last year, but the Government have again made it clear in the current pay round that they believe that it is in the long-term national interest for such an agreement to be achieved, and I hope that substantive discussions can begin soon.

Has my hon. Friend met the Civil Service trade unions representing Her Majesty's Nuclear Inspectorate, which still has grave reservations about its dispersal to Bootle? If he has not recently met them, will he make arrangements to do so?

That would be a matter for, I think, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who is responsible for the Health and Safety Executive, of which, I believe, that groups forms part.

When the Minister meets the Civil Service unions, will he explain to them why, when there has been a substantial increase in productivity in the Civil Service as a result of the substantial cuts in manpower, he has allowed the real pay of civil servants to fall by 14 per cent. compared with the 1980 level? Will he also explain why he has allowed a shortfall of 20 per cent. to arise between them and other white collar workers?

I note the base year which the right hon. Gentleman takes for his comparison. It is curious that he does not take as his base the last year for which his Government were responsible. If we take that as the base year, we see that the increase in the earnings of civil servants has well exceeded the rate of inflation.

When the pilot scheme for the use of the polygraph at GCHQ has been completed, will the Minister hold discussions with the Civil Service trade unions? I remind him that the Select Committee on Employment advised the Government that polygraphs and their tests were useless.

Questions about GCHQ and the use of polygraphs should be addressed in the first instance to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Has the Minister discussed the morale of civil servants with their representatives? Is he aware that the recent ballots on strike action came dangerously close to calling for industrial action? Does that not show that something is seriously wrong with morale? Is not part of the reason for that the way that the Government keep attacking civil servants?

The recent ballots showed that, in what they had been saying before the ballots took place, the leaders of the civil service unions were not adequately reflecting the majority view of their members. I am glad that the unions followed the requirements of the Trade Union Act 1984 and that the public were, therefore, not inconvenienced by strikes called by union leaders who were not fully representing their members.