Although the civil service is now at its smallest size since the second world war, officials have helped to deliver efficiency and reform savings of £11 billion in this financial year to January against a 2009-10 baseline. I pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of hundreds of thousands of civil servants up and down the country.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why he shut an office in my constituency that I fought long and hard to maintain, given that people have more than met the targets they have been given on every occasion in every year? Will he personally—he has not got long to go—have a wee look at that and perhaps write to tell me why he shut that office?
With the news this morning that HSBC is choosing Birmingham over Singapore or Hong Kong, and that Jaguar Land Rover is opening a new plant in the Birmingham area, will my right hon. Friend pay tribute to the civil servants who enabled that to happen in a new, clean, civil service that is lean and effective?
I pay warm tribute to what my hon. Friend has done to support the bringing of employment to the west midlands. He is a hugely energetic local Member of Parliament. Yes, the civil service does these things extremely well. It is a smaller civil service, but it is more effective than it was. I think its leadership would agree that there is still much more to do.
My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr Donohoe) raised the issue of the Government closing down the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs office in his constituency. Why is the Minister closing down the HMRC office in my constituency, the Army recruitment centre in my constituency and the Crown courts in my constituency?
As I said to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire, every Department in Government has to look to its efficiency, make sure it can live within its means and do the job on behalf of the public. The civil service does not exist to provide employment; it exists to serve the public. We found that that can be done more efficiently and effectively, doing more and better for less. At the same time as employment in the public sector has fallen, it has risen in the private sector by 2.3 million.
Does the Minister agree that in the parts of the United Kingdom where there has been an over-dependence on the public sector and large numbers of jobs in the civil service, such as in Northern Ireland where the Executive are trying to reduce the dependence on the public sector, central Government should support inward investment through the private sector?
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is quite right to identify both the problem and the solution. The Northern Ireland economy will undoubtedly benefit from more private sector investment, from overseas or from within, with a smaller public sector.