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Civil Service Jobs outside London

Volume 704: debated on Thursday 25 November 2021

The Government are committed to relocating 22,000 civil servants out of Greater London by 2030, with up to 15,000 by 2025. We are working with Departments and public bodies to ensure that roles are relocated at pace, and the spending review will enable Departments to now finalise those plans.

According to the “Preparing for the Civil Service Verbal and Numerical tests” section of the Government website, these tests are

“fair and free from bias and discrimination”,

but they are based on algorithms to ensure that a

“person meets the requirements of a particular job level”.

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that the civil service employs individuals from a broad spectrum of political beliefs?

The tests to which my hon. Friend refers do not assess political beliefs; they are focused on reasoning ability in relation to verbal and numerical skills. However, the point she raises is addressed through the Places for Growth programme, which, by recruiting civil servants in larger numbers from across the whole of the United Kingdom, will facilitate far greater diversity through our recruitment.

York has been promised many jobs, including the House of Lords—remember that one?—a northern government hub, a conference centre, and now 600—or is it 200?—new Cabinet Office jobs, but nothing has materialised; it seems like chaos. Will the Minister meet me to talk about the potential of York Central and how this incredible opportunity could best be used to strategically serve the purposes and functions of government as well as my city of York?

I am a little surprised by that, because the Government are committed to York. The hon. Lady has already, along with other colleagues, made the case successfully. Not least, the Cabinet Office itself is committed to increasing its presence from about 400 to 600 in York. We are committed to York through Places for Growth, and I hope she would celebrate that.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington, with its skilled workforce, transport links and infrastructure, would be the ideal location for civil service jobs outside London, and that this would be an example of our Government’s determination to level up across the country?

I very much do agree that Bury would be a great location, as indeed would a number of locations across the north-west. It is important that the Places for Growth programme does not solely look at inner-city locations but also looks at the opportunities that places like Bury offer to relocate jobs.

I call Richard Holden. He is not here—in which case, let us go to Barry Sheerman, who is here.

It is on Thursday mornings, Mr Speaker, that those of us who are regulars miss David Amess—those Thursday mornings when he was so lively and showed that he was a true parliamentarian.

When the Minister talks about putting jobs in places around the country, will he lead, with all of us in our constituencies, a campaign for sustainable development in every town, city and community in this country?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his first comments, which are widely shared across the House.

On the hon. Gentleman’s substantive point, I agree. I was recently looking, for example, at the Cabinet Office relocation plans for Peterborough, which were part of a much wider regeneration programme that will make a significant difference there. One of the key learnings from past attempts by previous Governments to relocate civil servants outside London is that one has to do it a way that builds a hub and spoke, so that there is a sustainable career and it sits within a wider regeneration, as in areas such as York. He makes an extremely important point, and it is a key part of the plans we are bringing forward.

I believe that Ministers have previously shown interest in suitable office space in my constituency to house Cabinet Office staff. Will the Minister provide an update on any plans to open civil service offices in Rutherglen and Hamilton West or the surrounding areas? He just mentioned areas of regeneration. That is an area that is being regenerated by Clyde Gateway.

A key component of the Places for Growth programme is that it is UK-wide. That is why, to take my Department, the Cabinet Office, we are having a second headquarters in Glasgow, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is committed to East Kilbride. It is a UK-wide programme, and that shows the values of working together across the United Kingdom.