Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
27 JULY 2010
Q20 Kevin Brennan: You are still
committed to the course of action that the PCS is currently on?
Mr Lanning: No is the answer to
that. The course of action that we have said always has been we
want to have negotiations to reach a collective agreement about
a new compensation scheme. That is the course that we are on.
We have never met somebody who has wanted to join us on that course.
Legal action, if it is for the future around the Money Bill, will
only be if we fail to reach agreement.
Q21 Robert Halfon: What effect do
you think that the Superannuation Bill will have on deterring
high-calibre individuals from entering public service?
Mr Lanning: There are not going
to be that many opportunities to come in. There is not that much
recruitment at the moment and I do not think there is going to
be a lot for the future. Where it will deter people is in the
morale of people who are there about whether they think they are
being treated fairly or not in terms of how they have been treated
in the run-up to now and also whether it is a fair system going
Mr Baume: I think there is an
issue here but it is not specifically around the compensation
scheme, the redundancies. I think the Civil Service and the Government
will need to look ahead about how they shape the reward package
for people. We do still recruit at senior levels and although
there is not a blanket freeze there is a very tight clamp-down,
and you will need to do two things: one to retain people who are
moving up the organisationwe recruit some very bright and
capable graduatesand also some people who may come in from
outside, but it will be the package in the round. What are we
doing on pay? What are we going to do in terms of future pension
provision? That is obviously still a very big issue. There is
also the tax regime around pensions. It is the standing and respect
of the Civil Service as well which I think ministers have been
very proper and very appropriate in terms of the relationship
but there is still a lot of media criticism and I think that is
often very misplaced. We do need to keep sight of what is the
overall reward package. I think the pensions is far more important
in this and far more iconic than the redundancy terms. You do
need to have the facility to offer people decent packages that
will retain them when the economy recovers fully and there are
lots of jobs out there. You cannot lose sight of that as a factor
around a lot of these decisions about people that will need to
be taken over the next five years.
Mr Noon: My union represents professional
grades, engineers and other specialists, some of whom are in quite
short supply and some of whom the departments find difficult to
recruit or retain, including particularly nuclear specialists.
Those people will take their own decisions. They are not people
who will be particularly worried about redundancy in this case
because they have got very marketable skills. They will look,
as Jonathan said, at issues particularly in relation to the pension
arrangements and whether they think it is a fair employer to work
for. We are concerned that the trend which is there already of
people not wanting to come to the Civil Service will continue,
and it will make life very difficult for some departments.
Q22 Robert Halfon: Many of those
individuals are prepared to work in the private sector with less
Mr Noon: They are not less generous
packages actually for most of my members and that is why areas
like the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate have had the devil's
own job in recruiting people because they can earn far more in
either the civil nuclear industry or in industry more generally.
The idea that all terms and conditions are poor in the private
sector (we have twice as many members in the private sector as
in the Civil Service) is not my experience at all. Many professional
specialist grades do far better in the private sector.
Q23 Chair: Is there enough flexibility?
It is a more general question than compensation or redundancy.
Is there enough flexibility to address that?
Mr Noon: On pay it has been an
issue and it has been very difficult. I would just use the example
of nuclear specialists. Even where what they are paid is charged
to the nuclear industry, even then getting the Treasury and Cabinet
Office to agree to increases (which are crucial to the civil nuclear
new build) it took a tremendous amount of time to do that. More
recently there have been some signs of flexibility although quite
how the general pay freeze will pan out and whether that will
have similar effects is too early to say.
Q24 Nick de Bois: You are concerned
about recruitment and staff morale as you have expressed. Would
the Government not then be right to consider the proposed bill
as a Money Bill which would speed it up and give employees certainty,
because one thing all current and prospective employees would
like is clarity and certainty for the future? I suspect you would
agree with. Secondly, I also noted, Mr Noon, your comment that
you think that the Bill would be "an abuse of House of Commons
rules" by using this Money Bill. Is not that at the discretion
of the Speaker and not for anyone else to make a judgment on and
therefore why would it be an abuse?
Mr Noon: Obviously it would be
a question for the Speaker to decide but I am still entitled to
an opinion on behalf of my members about what we see as a parliamentary
process. We have not seen a situation where a Money Bill has been
used in this way. Previously our understanding of these issues,
based on legal advice, is that a Money Bill has been used to protect
revenue or to raise tax. In this case it seems to have been used
to interfere with the contractual relationship between individual
civil servants and their employer. Obviously this is not going
to be decided by me, it is going it be decided by the Speaker,
but certainly that is our view and that is based on legal advice
Q25 Nick de Bois: But do you not
welcome attempts to get speedy resolution to this? You talked
about perhaps not using legal channels and actually going to negotiation,
surely that must be a key priority for you so you get clarity
for your employees regardless of grade?
Mr Noon: We do want to get to
a position where the uncertainty is ended but the main priority
for most of my members is to get to a fair deal. They recognise
there is going to be change. As a union on their behalf we have
been prepared to negotiate change and agree to changes and we
want to get to that, but it has got to be fair, and the imposition
as a background to negotiations of something which is based on
one year and 15 months for either compulsory or voluntary terms
does not seem to us to be reasonable.
Mr Lanning: Just on the certainty
point, I do not think the 12 and 15-month parameters of the Money
Bill will produce the management results that they want in terms
of people volunteering to come forward or them being able to cope
with the large-scale reductions they want. The best way to do
that is through voluntary and natural wastage which we did for
100,000 people over three or four years. There were only 87 people
who were made compulsorily redundant in that period. So this focus
on the terms is not actually the issue; it is how you manage the
process of change, and that is where the focus should be rather
than on the redundancy terms.
Q26 Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very
much indeed for a brisk and informative evidence session. We are
very grateful to you. We will now put some of the points you have
raised with us to the Ministers. Do stay and listen to the evidence.
Mr Lanning: Thank you very much
for the opportunity.