CHIEF Computer System

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Service – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th July 1988.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North 12:00 am, 4th July 1988

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement regarding the CHIEF computer system as it affects his ministerial responsibilities.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

The CHIEF computer system does not affect my ministerial responsibilities.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

As this computer system is to be used in the Civil Service, will the Minister support my referral to the Public Accounts Committee of the scandal of £4 million extra having to be paid for the contract to go out-house rather than in-house? Will the right hon. Gentleman use his great authority with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get the business case for the CHIEF computer system published? Will he also support my giving this document to the press so that the public can know that the scandal exists?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

It should be made plain that the so-called CHIEF computer system is to do with Customs' handling of import and export freight from 1992. It is not a matter for me, but one for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman must direct his questions in that direction.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Is my right hon. Friend aware from his recent and welcome visit to Southend that, in that part of the world, there is the greatest difficulty in operating any kind of computer system because of the problems of recruiting and retaining suitably qualified staff? Does he agree that, to be successful, as he knows it should be, the Civil Service must have conditions for specialists that are comparable with the private sector?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

I enjoyed my visit to Southend and to my hon. Friend's constituency. I admire the work being done by civil servants there. My hon. Friend knows that a flexible pay scheme is now evolving. It allows us to take much more into account the recruitment, retention and motivation requirements in different parts of the country. It is in that direction that we must move if we are to take account of the problems that my lion. Friend mentioned.