My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made with their review of the machinery for determining pay in the Civil Service.
My Lords, I outlined to the Council of Civil Service Unions on 1st August a number of changes which the Government wish to make to the Civil Service pay research system. Discussions on these are continuing. Meanwhile the Government have made clear that in 1981 the cash limit will be the main determinant of the Civil Service pay settlement.
My Lords, while I thank my noble friend for that extremely interesting reply, can he carry it a little further, and indicate when the substantial reforms which were advocated in this House in the recent debate on the PRU system are likely to be put into operation, and whether he is aware of the urgency of this, in view of the excessive settlements which it has produced in recent years?
My Lords, we are at the moment in conversation with the unions concerned. We have put forward to them a number of proposals, some of which were included in the most interesting debate which was initiated by my noble friend some months back. As to the high settlements of late, I am sure that the noble Lord in using these words has borne in mind the fact that three years ago there was a very low settlement in the public sector in general and the Civil Service in particular, as that was the third year of incomes policy when it was laid down that there should be a 5 per cent. increase only. There has been an inevitable catching-up process in the last two years. If you take it over the last three or four years, the levels of public service and private sector wage settlements have been very similar indeed.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware—I am sure he is—that it is the percentage rise in a particular year in Civil Service pay which tends to be the trend-setter throughout the public sector, and to some extent in the private sector, and is he therefore aware of the very heavy responsibility which lies on him to secure that, whatever system is used in place of the old PRU, settlements produced are moderate in percentage terms?
My Lords, I do not think I really dissent from what my noble friend is getting at, but I must dissent when he says that it is the trend-setter. Indeed, pay research is, has to be and can only be having a pay settlement in the Civil Service alongside what has already happened in the private sector, and indeed outside the Civil Service generally. So I would not say that it was a trend-setter. On the other hand, in the present economic situation, the Government are determined that they should have major control this year over the levels of settlement, and it is for that reason that we have said that cash limits will be the major determinant.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for answering this with such zeal and defending the Civil Service. Their settlements have not been excessive. They have followed what has happened elsewhere, and if there have been high settlements it is because they have followed high settlements in private industry.
My Lords, I am afraid I am not quite aware of what the noble Lord is asking me in that statement.