Skip to main content

Public Services: Civil Servants

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 14 July 2022

1. Whether the Government plan to make reductions to public services to meet their objective of reducing the number of civil servants by 91,000. (901040)

12. Whether the Government plan to make reductions to public services to meet their objective of reducing the number of civil servants by 91,000. (901054)

The Government are committed to providing high-quality public services. Over recent years, the civil service has delivered in the face of unprecedented challenges, but the civil service workforce has increased by 25% since June 2016. Given the wider economic pressures we face, it is therefore right that we look again at improving efficiency and reducing the cost of delivering high-quality public services. We will look at options for achieving that.

As a result of the Minister’s botched Brexit deal, more and more civil servants have been doing border checks for goods, doing trade deals that the EU would have done better and more profitably for the UK, and making up new environmental farming laws for the sake of it when we cannot even pick our own fruit and butcher our own meat, only for thousands of civil servants to be sacked so that it takes 12 weeks to get a passport or a driving licence. Does this not mean that the massive further cut in civil servants will lead to more service delays and more pain from less public services? The Minister should be taking a lead from his Prime Minister: resign and leave, so that a better Administration can be put in place to run this country.

There is a general rule in public life that whatever the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) says, it is likely to be wrong. Unfortunately, he started his question by saying that we had taken on too many civil servants and ended by saying that we did not have enough, so even within his own question, he was in a deep state of confusion.

The result of Brexit is that we are free to make our own way, to make our own rules, and to diverge from the European Union. That is fundamental and, fascinatingly, it is a freedom that people voted for, including the people of Wales whom the hon. Gentleman tries to represent in this House. What we need to do is to be efficient and spend taxpayers’ money wisely, but the socialist confusion always wants to get it wrong.

Passport delays, driving licence delays, benefit delays, visa delays—which bit of backlog Britain is the Minister going to break further in order to slash the civil service? Does he agree that the civil service did not cause the financial crisis, and that it is not causing inflation? The civil service responded magnificently to covid, and it is now covering for a Conservative party that is too intent on squabbling internally to deliver competent government.

I am happy to give the credit for the financial crisis to Gordon Brown, formerly of this place —[Interruption.] Indeed, he is the famous seller of the gold at a bargain basement price.

The hon. Lady is confusing two different things. There have not been reductions in the Passport Office; these are proposed reductions. What is going on is that too many people are still working from home. We need to get people back in the office doing their jobs, but we can also do more with fewer people. We see that already with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency: when one applies for things with the DVLA online, those things are mainly being returned extremely quickly. There are great efficiency savings to be made by using better technology and turning things around effectively and speedily.

While Tory leadership hopefuls fight over who can be the most economically incompetent to win their members’ favour, the UK’s public services are at breaking point. The Passport Office, the DLVA, the courts, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are all struggling with huge delays. The public are crying out for the Government to act, and what do we get? A proposal to slash vital civil servants’ jobs that will only exacerbate problems, not fix backlogs. The Government could not be more out of touch with the priorities of communities across the country, so I ask the Minister how the public can trust a Tory Government mired in disarray and division, and governed by self-interest rather than public duty, to deliver much-needed, high-quality public services.

What we are trying to do is get back from the covid backlog. It is undoubtedly the fact that people have not been going into their offices. If we take the DVLA as an example, the mail was not being opened. It was piled up in room after room because people were not going in. Some 4 million envelopes were unopened because people were not going into the office, because of a combination of the requirements of covid and the excessive rules of the socialist Welsh Government that made it very difficult for people to go in. That backlog has to be dealt with, but technology is unquestionably the answer. Try renewing your tax disc with the DLVA, Mr Speaker: you can do it in seconds. You no longer have to go into a post office to do it. That is the type of efficiency we need.

I thank the Minister for that very thorough answer, but we have to move on otherwise nobody else will get in, and we all want to hear Lee Anderson.