To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the civil service trade unions; and whether he discussed conditions of service.
I meet the civil service unions from time to time to discuss a range of matters.
When the Minister next meets the civil service unions, will he take the opportunity to dissociate himself and the Government from the report in The Guardian today of the thoughts of the right-wing Tory No Turning Back group for a pay-as-you-like or pay-whatyou-like tax system? Is not this a typical, desperate last attempt by the Conservative party to flag up its growing unpopularity in the opinion polls?
Order. The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question should relate to the conditions of service of civil service trade unions.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not understand that the bash-the-taxman idea behind the scheme is deeply offensive to civil servants and will do nothing but lower morale among Treasury civil servants who are collecting taxes on our behalf?
I cannot see the direct connection between the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question and the civil service. The production of new thinking and new ideas from all parts of the Conservative party is a sign of how alive the party is and how much it is looking forward to serving the country in the 1990s.
Has my right hon. Friend had time to discuss with the civil service trade unions the concern that they feel about Treasury report No. 2435, which recommends the downgrading of the pay and structure of a number of security officers and investigating officers in the sensitive area of physical security of Ministry of Defence buildings and of positive vetting? Does my right hon. Friend agree that a report which appears to seek to reduce by as much as £2,400 a year the pay of the 350 or so officers who work in this sensitive area is sending the wrong signal to the IRA and others and that there should be careful reconsideration of those misguided proposals?
That is a matter which should be drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friends, and I shall do that. I note what my hon. Friend has to say.
The Minister can no longer hope for preferment from a discredited Prime Minister and it would do all civil servants a power of good if he stated that the possibility reported in the newspapers of a bash-the-taxman policy in the next Conservative manifesto would be resisted by him. Civil servants at the Inland Revenue are professionals who take a pride in their work and the last thing that they want is a bash-the-taxman policy in the next Tory manifesto. Will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to ensure that it does not appear?
When the historians come to judge the 1980s and early 1990s, I believe that they will praise my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for her remarkable leadership. They will realise how alive the Conservative party was in the 1990s and how much its members were looking forward to serving the country in the future, compared with the sterile members and policies of the Labour party.