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With the greatest respect, I do not think that people should worry about numbers-we need to go to the meat of the debate, which is about protecting low-paid civil servants who would be disproportionately affected by the proposals.
The Minister may feel that the PCS has been foolish. He may feel that he wishes to take advantage of the PCS's vulnerability at this time and punish it. I genuinely urge him not to do so, because we anticipate a hard time for civil servants, many of whom may be made redundant as a result of the comprehensive spending review, and it would be vindictive in the extreme to hit them with the double whammy of redundancy and then a poor redundancy payment to boot, and to strip them of the hard-won conditions of service that they had.
You will be delighted to hear, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I am now going to sum up. The February 2010 deal was a fair deal, in my view. It saved money, it protected the lowest-paid, and it covered the protection of civil servants' redundancy payments and early retirement provision. We should not be attempting to punish members of the five trade unions who backed the February 2010 deal, nor should we punish PCS members, even if Ministers believe that the PCS strategy was somehow misplaced. To use the motto of Government Members, if we are all in this together, we should be fair to civil servants. We should put the February 2010 deal back on the table, legislate for those changes, and get the deal done. Then, we can ensure that all public servants who work in the civil service are protected properly.
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