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Given that, in this Chamber, we often talk about cuts, you will be pleased to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I have cut my speech substantially, in the interests of time.
It is interesting that so far in this debate there has been a general acceptance, on both sides of the Chamber, that change is needed in the civil service compensation scheme. That acceptance is welcome. I appreciate that both sides of the House cannot agree on how those changes should be made, but this Chamber and this nation are faced with some difficult and hard truths-we cannot afford the situation that the country finds itself in or the deficit that the Government have inherited. While I, like, I am sure, virtually every Government Member, want to see compromise and agreement between the Government and civil servants and civil service unions, we cannot wait for, or be held ransom by, one union that has decided that it does not wish to seek a compromise.
The simple truth is that there is a massive disparity between the private sector and the civil service when it comes to redundancy. Figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimate that, in autumn 2008, the average cost of a redundancy in the private sector was £8,981. Yet, according to comparative figures for 2005-08, 10,000 compulsory early severance packages were served on civil servants, costing an average of £42,000 each. All Members would accept that that is a substantive difference. Governments, like businesses, need flexibility in what they do and how they work, but the current scheme does not offer that flexibility. We can argue about three years, six years or two thirds, and we can talk about trying to achieve efficiency savings, but the simple reality is that we are facing a payback of between three and six years in order to realise the benefit of those efficiency savings. Unfortunately, that it is not going to be enough in the difficult times that we have inherited from the previous Labour Government.
I very much welcome the words spoken by my right hon. Friend the Minister at the Dispatch Box, along with his obviously heartfelt wish to seek compromise and reach agreement with the unions, for the benefit of everyone in this nation and of the civil servants who work so diligently for this Government. That should be welcomed on both sides of the House. I also hope that, with the passage of the Bill, the civil service unions will realise how important it is to reach that compromise swiftly, for the benefit of all.
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