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All I can say is that it would be rash to make predictions. I can express the hope and aspiration that agreement will be reached. I stand ready to meet the Council of Civil Service Unions at any time, and my officials are engaged in genuine and sustained negotiations and discussions with the unions, which are continuing on an almost daily basis. I have to say that I was discouraged this morning when Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of PCS-a man for whom I have considerable respect-said, when asked whether he would challenge the result in the courts again, that he would do so. That does not bode well for a consensual outcome, and the fact is that five of the six unions had agreed the previous scheme, but the rug was pulled by one union, to the disbenefit of everyone concerned.
I have made it clear that I do not see this Bill as the last word. It remains our desire to reform the scheme by negotiated agreement, so there have been significant and continuing discussions. There are two key goals in the negotiations. The first is to deliver additional protection for lower-paid civil servants, and that has to be done by negotiation-
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