asked the Minister for the Civil Service what reduction in the numerical strength of the Civil Service, expressed, respectively, in numbers and in percentage, occurred during the period of 18 months between 1st July, 1970, and 31st December, 1971; and, having regard to the legislative programme of the Government having been substantially settled for 1972, what further reduction he now anticipates during this year.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on 1st December, 1971. The figures for 1st January, 1972, are not yet available but will be published shortly.—[Vol. 827, c. 107.]
My hon. Friend is entitled to his own view on the Civil Service. As far as the numbers of civil servants is concerned, as he knows there has been a substantial reduction in some areas. These have been outweighed by an increase in prison staff and in social security work. If he wants cuts in those programmes he is free to bring forward his proposals.
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether it remains the intention of the Government that there should be an overall reduction in the number of non-industrial civil servants?
We intend to achieve cuts where we can, but the point is that there are programmes demanding more civil servants. Either we can slow up those programmes or we can achieve economies in manpower. If hon. Members opposite do not want more prison staff and welfare staff they should get up and say so.
Is not the point that the rate of increase of civil servants should be cut back as far as possible, if not actually reduced, because is it not a fact that if the rate of increase in the next few years is what it has been in the last few years by 2000 A.D. everybody in the country will be a civil servant?
Would it not be better to consider the present trend of unemployment and to consider that in the long-term interest there will have to be an expansion in service industries in both the private and public sectors?