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I believe that people who are made redundant should be properly compensated and, yes, I believe that the system put forward by the last Government was certainly affordable. I actually believe that the mechanism previous to that is still affordable. However, I accept that there was a need for reform. That is what the unions were negotiating on. It was not the PCS's fault that the last scheme fell apart; the Government ruled that the process by which it was introduced was unlawful-it is as simple as that.
Let me return to the myth of a highly paid civil service that is promulgated, if not today, certainly elsewhere, including by the media. Yes, there are some highly paid civil servants, and we have dealt with that today. The unions themselves are at the forefront of highlighting the need to tackle high pay and bonuses. However, as had been said, the average civil service pay on which redundancy payments are based is £22,850 a year, compared with £24,970 in the private sector. There are 35,000 civil servants who earn less than £15,000 a year. Some 210,000 people-40% of the civil service-are paid £20,000; 350,000, less than £25,000. The bulk of our civil servants are on low or relatively modest pay.
The other tactic that is used-and it has been paraded again today by Ministers and Members in the debate-is a justification of the attack on the compensation scheme by divide and rule, playing public sector workers off against private sector workers. The Government have argued that many people in the private sector receive only statutory minimum redundancy payments or low-level additional scheme payments, but the reality is that most private sector workers are covered by some form of additional scheme, and are usually protected by its being written into their contract of employment. The fact that the level of many of those compensation payments is disgracefully low in some parts of the private sector is no justification whatsoever for undermining standards in the public sector. It is an argument for raising levels and standards in the private sector, even in these economic times.
The argument that when civil servants take on their job they weigh up the merits of going into the public or private sector has been made today. Wages in the public sector are lower, but the benefits are better, and usually more secure-that is the calculation that is made. If we compare civil service grades with jobs in the private sector, we can see that admin officers in the civil service earn 21% less than people in comparable jobs in the private sector.
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