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Volume 130: debated on Monday 28 March 1988

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To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he expects to meet the Civil Service trade unions to discuss the proposals for agencies for the Civil Service.

I have no plans to meet the Civil Service unions at present but the head of the Home Civil Service has made it clear that he is open to consultations.

Is the Minister aware that one of the largest Civil Service regional centres is in Nottingham, in my constituency of Nottingham, North, where the Government buildings at Chalfont drive have the Land Registry, the district valuers, the Property Services Agency, the Wages Inspectorate and the Ordnance Survey section? Will he, or one of his colleagues, meet the trade unions representatives on that large site and reassure them that by this time next year they will not be added to the list of Nottingham's 14,000 unemployed?

I am glad that there are such a large number of civil servants in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and area. In fact, four out of five of all civil servants are well outside the London region. That policy is one that the Government are encouraging. Meetings with the unions are for the Departments concerned.

Does the Minister recognise the widespread anxiety among civil servants about the effect that the agencies will have on nationally negotiated wage rates? What can he say to the House today to reassure those civil servants, many of whom are long-standing civil servants who have made career decisions over many years, that their position will not be eroded by the Government's policies?

There is no doubt about the importance of the agencies and the wide welcome that they have received from many people in the Civil Service. They will devolve more responsibility on to the shoulders of managers and that is more likely to lead to a better use of Government and taxpayers' resources. On the matter of terms and conditions of service, they remain civil servants within the agencies. It is a matter for negotiation between the Departments concerned and the agency being set up as to the exact terms and conditions of service. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the unions concerned will be fully consulted if there are any proposals for changes in terms and conditions.


To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he is yet in a position to give the definitive list of those organisations which will be the first to be formed into agencies, as part of the implementation of the recommendations of the recent efficiency unit report, "Improving Management in Government: The Next Steps".

An initial list of possibilities was published on 18 February. These and other candidates will be considered on their merits.

I welcome the report and the Prime Minister's statement that the Government intend to implement the establishment of agencies. As the proposal has been widely welcomed, both outside and inside the Civil Service, will my right hon. Friend seriously consider keeping up the momentum and encouraging the establishment of agencies as a topmost priority?

Yes, of course I will. The project manager, Mr. Kemp, is now fully settled in the Department and we are working on drawing up the first list for implementation as soon as possible with the Departments concerned. As my hon. Friend knows, there is an initial list of 12, and we shall make an announcement as soon as we have one to make.

Is the Minister interested in efficiency a bit nearer home? Did he notice that earlier this Question Time a messenger arrived, bewigged from the Lords, and handed a bundle of documents done up in red tape to the Serjeant at Arms, who handed the bundle to the Attendant who normally marks up the times of debates, who handed it to the Doorkeeper, who brought it round via the No Lobby to behind the Chair and handed it to our Clerk? Surely there is a more efficient method for bringing messages from the Lords and carrying them the last 25 yards to our Clerk.

I have to answer for the Civil Service and not for procedures in this House, which are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. But the more that can be done to get rid of red tape, the better.