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Civil Service Morale

9. Mr. Martlew: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on morale in the civil service. [9987]

Mr. Willetts: Morale in the civil service is best maintained by allowing staff to perform to the best of their abilities in the career that they have chosen. This Government's civil service reforms enable staff to focus their attention on delivering high-quality public services. That is the best way of satisfying them and the users of their services.

Mr. Martlew: Surely the Minister is being complacent. Does he not realise that civil servants' morale has been sapped because of Government changes? The Government have created a climate of insecurity. Does

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not the Minister agree with Sir Robin Butler, head of the civil service, who wrote that in an article in The Observer recently?

Mr. Willetts: The Government have a fine record of reforming the civil service. Inevitably, nobody nowadays can be offered a job for life but, as my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister explained in a speech last week, we have a fine record and we are pursuing our reform agenda.

Mr. John Marshall: Will my hon. Friend tell the House what has happened to the numbers in the civil service? Sometimes people outside suspect that one party in the House is more interested in jobs for the boys than in getting value for money for the taxpayer.

Mr. Willetts: There were 735,000 civil servants in 1979 and there are now 506,000 civil servants. The number will go below 500,000 this year, and that shows that the Government are serious about cutting overhead costs.

Mr. Derek Foster: What is the Minister's response to Sir Robin Butler's charge that low morale and the climate of insecurity are caused by perpetual reorganisation imposed by Tory Government? Has not morale plummeted further because of the Deputy Prime Minister's scorched earth policy in pursuing privatisation to ludicrous lengths, for example with Her Majesty's Stationery Office and the Recruitment and Assessment Services Agency, which has been so roundly condemned by Lords Bancroft and Hunt?

Mr. Willetts: We published a White Paper in 1994 on the civil service called "The Civil Service--Continuity and Change", which made it clear that the Government are committed to a high-quality civil service that will also be smaller and more committed to numeracy and technical skills. Many civil servants welcome the reform agenda that the Government are pursuing.

We expect improvement and reduction in overhead costs in the private sector and there is no reason why the Government should not ensure that their house matches the quality of service in the private sector. That is what we are doing.

Mr. Jacques Arnold: What would happen to the morale of a civil service team if the deputy leader of that team was left out of all considerations and discussions because he was thought not to be intellectually up to it?

Mr. Willetts: I dread to think what would happen to the civil service in the event of a Labour Government, and especially what would happen if the personal press officer of the Leader of the Opposition were put in charge of the Government's information service.

Government Policy

10. Mr. Ainger: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what proportion of his time spent on ministerial duties is devoted to promoting Government policies. [9988]

The Deputy Prime Minister: Whatever time I judge necessary.

Mr. Ainger: Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that since he took up his position in July last year and devoted

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so much time to promoting Government policy, the Gallup 9000 public opinion poll has been registering a constant lead of more than 25 per cent. for the Labour party? Is the reason for the Deputy Prime Minister's dismal failure to promote the Government because the policies he is promoting are no good, or is it that he is no good at promoting the policies, or is it a combination of the two?

The Deputy Prime Minister: If the failure to promote Government policies had been acute as the hon. Member suggests, the Labour party would not have been thrown into the abject pandemonium that we have seen in the past four days.

Mr. Viggers: Does my right hon. Friend agree that he has an easy job because our policies are clear and understood? Does my right hon. Friend, who is a kindly man, feel some sense of compassion for Opposition Members who will have to cluster around the tape machine this evening to try to discover what their policy is on testing, selection and streaming in schools?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I do feel compassion for them, and that is why I spend so much of my time explaining Labour party policy for them.

The accelerated learning proposals of the leader of the Labour party give us a new version of Labour's stakeholder society. I read in The Times today that our best teachers would be sent to the worst schools. Britain's best teachers would have to take a stake in Labour's worst schools, while the children of Labour leaders would get a stake in the Tories' best schools. That is another example of accelerated hypocrisy.

Mr. Radice: I wonder whether the Deputy Prime Minister can tell the House when the Scott inquiry report will be published.

The Deputy Prime Minister: I do not have a date to give the House today, but I believe that the House realises that Sir Richard Scott's report is likely to reach the Government in the not too distant future.

Mr. Harry Greenway: Will my right hon. Friend monitor the teaching of moral education at St. Olave's and the London Oratory schools? Does he think that the teachers at those schools will teach their pupils "to do as I say" or "to do as I do"?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I would not wish to interfere in the excellent teaching standards that those schools enjoy. The parents concerned have exercised exactly the choice that I think that the vast majority of parents would exercise in their position. It is difficult to understand, however, how the Labour party would deny parents the chance to exercise such choice, which self-evidently is the sort of choice that its leaders want to adopt.

Foreign Companies

11. Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to issue further regulation in respect of the activities of foreign companies operating in the United Kingdom. [9989]

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Mr. Willetts: The Government have no plans for further regulation of foreign companies operating in the United Kingdom because we do not wish to jeopardise our record of attracting substantial overseas investment.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: The Minister will know of the appalling and entirely unregulated activities of Campbell Soups of America, including those in my constituency, where it shut down a perfectly profitable factory. The Minister will know also of the national boycott of Campbell Soups and Fray Bentos products. Will he join me in expressing the view that Safeway, Sainsbury and Tesco have a solution to the affair? If they say in the marketplace, to Campbell Soups, that enough is enough, it will be forced to reverse its decision.

Mr. Willetts: The hon. Gentleman's clarity and consistency on this matter is in striking contrast to the behaviour of Labour Members on most policy issues. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, however, there was not a qualifying merger under fair trading legislation. There is, therefore, no basis on which the Government have any powers to intervene in what was a straightforward commercial decision.


Aid Budget

26. Mr. Nigel Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received about the size of the overseas aid budget in 1996-97. [10007]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Jeremy Hanley): We always receive a large number of representations from hon. Members and the general public, and this year is no exception.

Mr. Evans: I have received many letters from my constituents in Ribble Valley about the overseas aid budget, which I have passed on to my right hon. Friend. Does he believe that the interest shown by my constituents and those of other hon. Members reflects the interest that the British people wish to see the Government demonstrating in maintaining a high level of spending within the overseas aid programme while ensuring that every pound of that money is spent effectively so that we can be proud of our overseas aid programme?

Mr. Hanley: My hon. Friend is right. Britain's aid programme is the fifth largest in the world. It is one of the most effective of all the official programmes. The Government are committed to maintaining a large and effective aid programme with the aim of reducing poverty and creating a more prosperous and stable world. I believe that the United Kingdom people join us in that.

Mr. Foulkes: The fundamental expenditure review does not square with the Minister's description. "Narrow focus" is a smokescreen for cuts. It is no good repeating parrot fashion that we are fifth in the list of donors when we have fallen to 13th place in the real terms of gross national product.

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What response does the Minister expect from countries in central and southern America, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, and especially Commonwealth countries, which will receive no aid from Britain under the fundamental expenditure review? The review is a betrayal of those countries. The Prime Minister said that we would maintain an aid programme of which we could be proud. We must be ashamed of the present policy.

Mr. Hanley: As usual, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. The fundamental expenditure review contained the recommendation of concentration of effort in priority countries, continuing a process of focus already under way. There will be no radical change and we shall not neglect traditional partners. In 1994-95, 70 per cent. of our bilateral programme concentrated on the 20 largest recipients. We currently give aid to 160 countries.

There is no doubt that the bilateral programme will face reductions during the survey period--we have admitted that--as we switch to multilateral aid. The FER is not in the slightest the slashing of budgets that the hon. Gentleman says that it is. If he wants to know about the slashing of budgets, let me tell him that Italy's expenditure on aid fell by 36 per cent. last year, Canada reduced its aid by 20.5 per cent., and the United States provides only 0.15 per cent. of its gross national product as aid. Perhaps those are the sort of programmes that the hon. Gentleman is talking about. We are proud of our aid. We are, and will remain, the fifth biggest donor.

Mr. Key: I warmly welcome the fundamental expenditure review, as we shall have to make difficult choices in the coming years. I am in no doubt that the quality of our aid programme is the finest in the world, but will my right hon. Friend explain how we shall fit into a new relationship with the European Union's aid programme, which is of inferior quality and dilutes our traditional aid effort into parts of the world with which we have precious little in common?

Mr. Hanley: I understand what my hon. Friend says. The FER's conclusions are only recommendations, and we are considering how policies should be changed to respond to them. The FER has confirmed the basic rationale and thrust of the aid programme, the continuing need for concessional aid, and the desirability of the Overseas Development Administration to continue to have responsibility for all aid in the ODA. I am very proud indeed that more of our officials from the ODA are helping out in the European Commission to ensure that the multilateral aid that is given by Europe is given effectively and efficiently, as our bilateral programme is.

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