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I shall be brief, as I have been instructed and as I wish to be. The Bill aims to do something that is necessary-to reform the civil service compensation scheme. I support the aim. It should have been done many years ago. The scheme is not affordable in its current format. But I have a problem with what I have heard in the debate about the Bill being some kind of negotiating tactic. We have been elected to the House as legislators, not as negotiators. It is for Government to negotiate and for Parliament to legislate. I would value the comments of colleagues on that.
The previous Government put a great deal of work into reforming the compensation scheme, which I acknowledge, but it would have been better had they started the process a lot earlier. The work that they put together with the unions was eventually frustrated. The history is known to us all, and I will not repeat it.
I support the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on
"will need to be fair, and in particular to provide a higher level of protection for lower-paid workers."-[ Hansard, 6 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 4WS.]
In saying that, the Minister was echoing the comments of Tessa Jowell, when she said last year that the changes proposed at the time were aimed at
"protecting the lowest paid civil servants".
It is clear that there is agreement across parties that lower paid civil servants should receive protection. That is only right. I ask the Minister to consider how he can best reflect that through the Bill which we, as legislators, have before us. As it stands, civil servants on all salaries are treated in the same way, with no particular consideration being given to those on the lowest pay. I know that he will have given careful thought to how the sentiments of his words on
I, like many colleagues from all parts of the House, want to underline the importance that I place on the work of those concerned. When we speak about people being made redundant in the public sector, we certainly do not want to send out the message that, somehow, it is their fault. If someone is in a job that is no longer necessary or even affordable, we should look at who created that job and why. Governments of all colours have been guilty of being far too quick to take on staff for a new scheme without thinking about the long-term future. People are not playthings to be shuffled around on a whim. That is not to say that I oppose flexibility; I welcome it. But flexibility cuts both ways.
My second point concerns civil servants who have been in the public service for many years. A constituent of mine, working for the Ministry of Defence, pointed out that under the Bill he will, with a reasonable length of service, be entitled to the same payout as colleagues who have worked two or three times as long. He had no self-interest in raising that point; he simply wanted to speak up for his colleagues. I am a great respecter of length of service. Dedication and loyalty, whether in the public service, a private company or, indeed, a relationship is almost always something that we should celebrate. I therefore ask the Minister to look at how that can best be reflected in the Bill.
I shall support the Bill, because I know from what the Minister said today that he understands the points that I have made, but I urge all who are involved in negotiating the new settlement to arrive as soon as possible at a sustainable, practical and affordable long-term scheme.
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