Pay Research Unit

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Service – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 1976.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomery 12:00 am, 1st November 1976

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will consider changing the constitution of the Civil Service Pay Research Unit so as to include independent advice and assessment.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will review the constitution of the Civil Service Pay Research Unit.

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

May I preface my reply by emphasising that the Pay Research Unit procedures are in suspense during the current period of the Government's pay policies. However, the procedures for determining Civil Service pay have been kept under regular review since they were recommended by the Priestley Royal Commission and the Government are naturally taking the opportunity provided by the current suspension of pay research to look at various aspects of the system. But these are matters which need to be examined very carefully and any suggestions or proposals will have to be the subject of full consultation with the interested parties.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomery

Is the Minister aware of the grave public concern about earnings and related benefits in the nonproductive public service being out of balance with the earnings and related benefits in the productive area? As the public non-productive sector does not seem to be subject to the Pay Code, and nor do the benefits and pensions, is it not time that independent advice was made available to the unit?

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

The hon. and learned Gentleman is misleading the House and the country by suggesting that civil servants' pay is not subject to Government pay policy. It is. Civil servants have had no more and no less than comparable groups in the private sector.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

The Civil Service Pay Research Unit is fully staffed by civil servants. Since hon. Members are prepared to bring in outside advice to determine their own terms and conditions, might that not be right for the Civil Service?

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

The Government are exploring ways in which it might be possible to ensure that justice is not only done to Civil Service pay but is manifestly seen to be done. I reject the right hon. Gentleman's implication that in some ways there is a conspiracy among civil servants to determine their own rates of pay. That is completely misleading.

Photo of Mr Ioan Evans Mr Ioan Evans , Aberdare

Has my hon. Friend noticed that this is a unique parliamentary occasion, because, of the 14 Questions tabled to the Minister for the Civil Service, nine come from the Parliamentary Liberal Party? Is that not unusual, and can he explain this concerted attack on the Civil Service?

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

I suppose my hon. Friend is right to say that today we are witnessing a new parliamentary phenomenon. Civil servants, public servants, retired policemen, nurses and all the people who have dedicated their lives to the public service must be wondering what they have done to incur the wrath of these Westminster Order Paper warriors.

Photo of Mr Robert McCrindle Mr Robert McCrindle , Brentwood and Ongar

I do not in any way wish to attack the Civil Service, but will the Minister accept that there is considerable resentment, particularly among pensioners benefiting from private schemes who look at the inflation-proofing of Civil Service pension schemes and find their own standards of living falling? Will the Government consider inflation-proofing both public and private pension schemes and try to bring an end to inflation as soon as possible?

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

I accept that there may be some resentment among those who are enjoying the benefits of a private pension scheme when they see the inflation-proofed Civil Service scheme. But the feelings of resentment are not based on fact. If the hon. Gentleman examines the basis of the Civil Service indexing of pension schemes, he will see that there is no injustice.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Teesside Thornaby

Does my hon. Friend agree that there has been much hypocrisy about Civil Service pensions among Liberal Members? Will he tell the House who introduced the 1971 Pensions (Increase) Act and what was the attitude of the Liberal Party to its introduction?

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

My hon. Friend, with perception, has reminded me that the 1971 Act was initiated by the Conservative Government. Not one Liberal Member took part in the debate on that Bill in the House of Commons. In the House of Lords the Liberal spokesman strongly welcomed the Bill.

Photo of Mr Hugh Fraser Mr Hugh Fraser , Stafford and Stone

Apart from the intra-parliamentary inter-party row, is not the real problem that, if a pension is indexed on £3,000 today, in 15 years at a 13 per cent, rate of inflation it will be £18,000? That is the real problem facing the Government, the House and the public, and something must be done about it. It is a nonsense economy.

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question in mathematics is for him to join the Government in getting inflation down.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

Does the Minister appreciate that in addition to the problem of pensions the basic level of salaries is causing wide concern throughout the country, particularly in industries which have lost people to jobs with seemingly less responsibility but with higher salaries in the public service? Is not this a feature that should be examined by the Pay Research Unit?

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

I should like to see the evidence for the hon. Gentleman's claim. The view that the Civil Service is leading in pay and pensions is not borne out by the facts. Three to four years ago, despite all the advantages now being attributed to Civil Service pay and conditions, we could not attract people from the private sector to the Civil Service. The salaries, pensions and perquisites have not changed in the meanwhile.