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Superannuation Bill

Part of Freedom of Information (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 7:39 pm on 7th September 2010.

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Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Conservative, West Worcestershire 7:39 pm, 7th September 2010

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I have obviously been in completely the wrong line of work, given that I was unaware of such significant redundancy packages.

We all recognise that people are reluctant to make employees redundant, and that they would make every effort to move people to new jobs. However, the Minister made an important point when he said that when redundancies need to happen, people want to avoid the situation in which the most recently hired and lowest paid are let go because decision making is distorted by the packages that must be offered to more highly paid people who have been with a company for a long time.

We can also acknowledge that when redundancies are made in the civil service-I gather that in the three years from 2005, there were 16,500 redundancies, which cost the public purse about £1 billion at an average of about £60,000 per redundancy-the money must be found from the taxpayer. I differ from my colleagues who said that the decision to introduce the Bill was made because of the deficit. I submit that even if we did not have a deficit, the sums of money being paid out in redundancy would seem no less huge.

We have talked a lot about fairness in today's debate. Is it fair that some of the taxes paid by an individual who finds work after being made redundant in the private sector-the average redundancy payment in the private sector is approximately £9,000-go to pay significant redundancy payments in the civil service? We all agree that something must be done, and as Tessa Jowell said, the CSCS is simply not appropriate for a modern civil service.

It would be right to do something about the situation in good times, just as it is right to do something in tough times, but it would clearly be better, as everyone agrees, if the unions and the Government successfully negotiated a change. It would be more attractive if the redundancies that are being discussed were voluntary. It is often the case that managing a redundancy process that has a significantly more generous voluntary element makes the process much less painful for the work force. In addition, it would be better if we negotiated a change so that the public sector is more vigorous and stronger when new jobs are created. It is one of the counter-intuitive laws of economics that companies that have very generous severance terms tend to hire fewer people than companies that are more flexible. It is also counter-intuitive that the mobility of staff within organisations that have more flexible employment terms is improved. That can often help with morale and job satisfaction.

We have spoken today about protecting the lowest-paid, but perhaps we should talk less about protecting them and recognise that the more junior staff are often able to move up. In other words, instead of talking about protecting junior staff, let us talk about promoting and creating more opportunity for mobility for them within the organisation.

It is also been observed that similar counter-intuitive laws of economics apply to countries. Countries that have more flexible employment laws have much stronger periods of job creation when they move into economic recovery.

I agree with colleagues on both sides of the House that it is a shame that we have to discuss the Bill and that it would be much better if we came to a successfully negotiated conclusion. Let us hope that while the Bill goes through Parliament, the negotiations bring about a more reasonable scheme that is both affordable for the public purse and fair to the very many valuable public servants who are covered by the current scheme.

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