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I certainly understand what the trade unions are trying to put forward and I completely understand their concerns about lower-paid workers. However, it should be noted that there is already provision for a minimum payment that covers lower-paid workers, although a discussion about the level at which to set that forms part of the consultation.
I do not want to pre-empt my final determination, but I am concerned about the scale of the cost savings. At the moment, I still have significant questions about whether what has been proposed by the trade unions meets the cost-saving requirements of the reform that we have set out. That is one principal consideration that will affect my final determination. However, I am very much conscious of the arguments that have been clearly put forward by the trade unions on these points, particularly on help for the lower-paid.
As I have said in recent meetings with union representatives, I am now genuinely carefully considering the counter-proposals that all unions have made. I remain keen to reach agreement with the unions if at all possible, and I am considering whether the Government’s proposals can be adjusted to help to facilitate that, while remaining consistent with our overall objectives for reform. As Members have noted, I intend to make a decision on any amendments to the Government’s proposals shortly. Following that, my intention is then for a period of further consultation with the unions, in advance of the Government’s making a formal offer of revised terms to the unions in the hope that they are accepted.
I conclude by repeating that the Government greatly value the work of civil servants. We are keen to reach agreement on a set of compensation scheme terms. I believe that the consultation proposals are fair and provide a good level of support to civil servants, while recognising the need for continued reforms and savings. I once again thank hon. Members for their contributions and I hope I have set out the Government’s approach clearly.