New Clause. — (Reduction in Cost of Civil Servants.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Selective Employment Payments Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th August 1966.

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Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking 12:00 am, 4th August 1966

I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman is grateful. Perhaps he could have saved some time if he had let me intervene when I tried to do so in his speech.

The increase in the Civil Service with which we are confronted, and which is undeniable, is also going on on a basis which is not, apparently, within the capacities of prediction of the Government. I found this in a number of cases when I have first asked Questions of various Ministers about the increases in staff which they anticipated over a period as short as six months ahead, and at the end of that six months I have asked another Question to find what the actual increase had been. In many cases, I would say in almost all, I found the actual increase varied wildly from the predicted increase—sometimes it was as much as 50 per cent. out. This is a non-planning situation, which is clearly very serious.

The growth of that Civil Service also, of course, has its effect on its demand for accommodation. I put some Questions recently to the Minister of Public Building and Works about office space occupied by Government Departments. I was given a great many statistics, of which I will weary the House only with two. In December, 1964, the total square footage of office space occupied by Government Departments was 39,320,000. In December, 1965, it was 41,440,000. That is an increase of about 5 per cent. in one year, and this before the real increase in the Civil Service has started to bite—and all this in the context of a Civil Service which is 3 per cent. under establishment, as the Chancellor told me when I asked him a Question on the subject the other day.

Why does all this matter? Not just because of the impact of Parkinson's Laws, although Members of the Treasury Bench may recall, perhaps, the most significant and penetrating of all those laws, that men who are not allowed to take important decisions come to regard as important the decisions they are allowed to take. That law applies, I think, to the whole Cabinet and to the Prime Minister, too.

Apart from Parkinson, whom I commend as bedside reading to the Financial Secretary and the Chief Secretary, I believe that the increase in the Civil Service is dangerous for a number of reasons. It soaks up talent. In our society, there is not an inexhaustible pool of talent and ability, although we sometimes delude ourselves into believing that there is. The Land Commission has been cited as a case in point. The 1968 rating revaluation has had to be postponed because the talents of valuers are to be absorbed into the Land Commission. I expect the ratepayers will have something to say about that when the time comes.

Increases in the Civil Service lead to delay in decision taking and this leads to inefficiency. Bureaucracy and Socialism are to my mind inseparable, and they dance hand in hand with national inefficiency. The situation to which the Inland Revenue has been reduced in its attempts to apply the fiscal measures introduced by the Government last year and this year is an illustration which speaks for itself. The growth of the Civil Service also diminishes national freedom, limits individual enterprise by centralising power and taking decisions out of the hands of individuals. It therefore limits active individual participation in society and relegates men and women to a passive rôle, wherein public faith in the democratic process is progressively destroyed.

We are moving towards a new sort of two-nation situation, the division being between those who are employed in permanent and pensionable Government jobs and those who are not. This reinforces a tendency towards a form of anarchy, a contempt for authority, and of course it also acts as a stimulus to the brain drain, which seems now to be proceeding at a most dangerous level. All of these are social costs which must be added to the purely monetary costs which I have outlined earlier.

I think that I can forecast the Government's justification for their attitude. Apart from saying that the new Clause as drafted would scarcely be capable of implementation—which is the standard Government reply to most new Clauses—they will probably say that the increases which they have created are justified, being necessary to implement the legislative programme on which they think they are embarked. We have already been told that there have been no cuts in establishments or staff in the Civil Service, despite the financial crisis. Following the Prime Minister's statement on 20th July I asked a number of Questions and I was told that the five main employing Ministries had made no cuts in staff. "We need these people to carry out our policies" is what those Ministries say. The Government should think about this matter carefully because now that people are seeing what these policies mean, in terms of money, people and the total social costs, they are turning against these policies because they see that we cannot afford them. The destruction of what the Government think they will be able to do is very closely bound up with this subject—the increase which is proceeding in the Civil Service.

I might be thought to be offering to the Government the solution to their difficulties—in suggesting that if they accept the new Clause they might preserve themselves from defeat at the next General Election. They might do that, although I doubt it. But if the new Clause, or the intent behind it, is not accepted and implemented, we will find that not only our hopes of progress and our freedom as individuals will be destroyed but that the Civil Service as we have known it and have been proud of it will also be destroyed.