Orders of the Day — Civil Service (Dispute)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:47 pm on 8 May 1981.

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Photo of Mr Barney Hayhoe Mr Barney Hayhoe , Hounslow Brentford and Isleworth 2:47, 8 May 1981

Unlike the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) and the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), I want first to pay a tribute on behalf of the general public to all those civil servants who have continued to give loyal and dedicated service to their Departments and to the community during the dispute. I know that many are profoundly disturbed by the disruptive action that is being taken by a small minority and by the calls for wider and extended action that are emerging as the Civil Service unions' conference seasons gets under way. We must remember that those who talk so often at those conferences will not be representing the views of many of their fellow workers.

Union leaders say that their action is directed against the Government. What nonsense! Actions to impede the collection of taxes or the repayment of VAT to small businesses and others, actions to interrupt air travel or to prevent Royal Navy submarines going on patrol, hurt the country and the community. I am glad that departmental contingency plans are working well and that essential work is continuing.

But damage is being done, not least to the reputation and the high standards of the Civil Service itself. Once the dispute is over we shall all have a great deal to do to rebuild morale and restore sensible working relationships. The sooner we can start this positive, constructive work, the better.

To end the dispute, there should be talks with the union leaders. I want there to be no doubt about the Government's willingness to talk. We are ready to talk to the Civil Service unions at any time. Surely all but the most militant must accept that this is a much better and more fruitful approach than pursuing disruptive industrial action that can only harm the Civil Service and cause unnecessary hardship to the public.