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Civil Service Compensation Scheme

Volume 507: debated on Wednesday 10 March 2010

6. What recent progress has been made in negotiations on the civil service compensation scheme; and if she will make a statement. (321243)

For the past 18 months, officials have been in discussion with the six main civil service unions to negotiate changes to the civil service compensation scheme to eliminate age discrimination, to protect the lowest paid and to deliver the savings of £500 million over three years committed to by the Prime Minister. The new scheme will be brought into effect from 1 April, with the agreement of five of the six civil service unions. The amendment scheme was laid before the House on 5 February. The Public and Commercial Services union rejected the new proposals and held industrial action on Monday and Tuesday this week.

I have thousands of civil servants working in my Cardiff, North constituency, particularly in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in Llanishen and Companies House in Gabalfa, and I met PCS representatives earlier this week. I urge my right hon. Friend to do all she can to settle the damaging dispute with the PCS. Will she return to the negotiating table to try to reach a settlement with the PCS?

I want to be absolutely clear with my hon. Friend, who I know is very concerned about the position of civil servants in her constituency and who has represented their interests so diligently. There is no question of any further negotiation. The amendment scheme that gives effect to the changes, agreed by five of the six trade unions, has been laid before Parliament. It is a fair set of proposals, which deals with the issues of age discrimination that are persistent in the old proposals. The new scheme benefits the lowest paid and compares well with other schemes in the public sector. There is no question of reopening negotiations.

In Plymouth, we have hundreds of hard-working civil servants who have served the country very well indeed at the Land Registry. They are extremely concerned about how they are being treated by the Government in a change of terms of conditions without proper consultation. Why are the Government treating the Land Registry civil servants in Plymouth so badly?

It is not the case that the interests of civil servants have been ignored, neglected or in any other way not treated with the direct integrity that is deserved in respect of the hard work of the thousands and thousands of civil servants who serve this country. The Land Registry civil servants will be subject in exactly the same way to the proposals under the new compensation scheme which, as I say, are particularly focused on benefiting the lowest paid.

The loyal, diligent workers at the tax office in Chorley are being run down in numbers. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is totally unacceptable to offer them jobs in the benefits and credits department, only for them to find out that in January that offer was withdrawn and they now face redundancy? Is that not the crisis that we are facing, and the reason why PCS is so unhappy? Will she look into the issue as a matter of urgency?

I am happy to have further discussion with my hon. Friend about the concerns of civil servants in his constituency, but it is the intention that all negotiations are conducted in a way that accords dignity and respect to those civil servants who are subject to any changes.