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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the important thing is to ensure that the Civil Service is able to deliver the public service to a level that the public require. We very much hope that e-government will reduce the size of the Civil Service, but the

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important point is to focus on the fact that public service delivery is what people expect from central government; and we shall continue to work for that.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, whatever kind of training is prescribed for the Civil Service, does it not depend on Ministers whether or not government is joined up? As it is the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, who is replying, does he agree that the Dome is not a very good example of joined-up administration?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I accept entirely that it depends on Ministers. The best way to ensure joined-up government is to ensure that the government of the day have shared objectives which they make clear--as this Government have done. So far as concerns the Dome, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity to say that it was the most popular paid visitor attraction in the whole country last year, and never fell below an 88 per cent satisfaction record.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Minister said that people entering the Civil Service should feel that they belong anywhere rather than in a particular branch. Will he comment on the situation that occurred a year or so ago, when many senior workers in the National Health Service were converted into civil servants? Was that a simple re-naming; or was there a need for a major transition in thinking on the part of those people?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I said that people in the Civil Service should feel a commitment to the public service, not to an individual department. So far as concerns the noble Baroness's question about the National Health Service, I am not aware of the particular matter to which she refers.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, is it not a fact that these days, as a result of cross-fertilisation between the Civil Service and the private sector, people are continually changing from the Civil Service to the private sector, and from the private sector to the Civil Service? Is not that what is really required?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, interchange is growing in the Civil Service, in the sense that people are moving from inside the service to outside, and are then returning. For example, the current head of Customs and Excise was in the private sector having once been in the Civil Service, and returned to the Civil Service to take up his current post. It is a good practice and it should be encouraged.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, am I right in thinking that by "joined-up government" the Minister means a situation in which Ministers and their departments talk to one another in a comfortable and friendly way? That seems a rather utopian conception.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: No, my Lords, by "joined-up government" I mean all the departments in government and all government Ministers working towards a set of shared goals.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, there are constant suggestions that the size of the Civil Service should be reduced. We have heard one such request this afternoon. Does the noble and learned Lord agree that if one is talking about the size of the Civil Service it might be a good idea to look--as the previous government did not do--at the remarkable expansion in the number of junior Ministers at a time when their responsibilities are being lessened as a result of the existence of executive agencies?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not know whether there has been an expansion or reduction in the number of junior Ministers. I am sure that every single junior Minister in this Government is fully engaged in productive work on behalf of the nation.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, does the Minister agree that while people move from one sector to another easily and comfortably, they still want their dustbins emptied? Does he intend to see whether there can be more flexibility in these types of jobs?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as I said in reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, the critical thing that a government, their civil servants and all those engaged in the public service must achieve is public service delivery, in every single aspect.

Savings Strategy

3.27 p.m.

Lord Blackwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What new policies they have in place or are considering to encourage and reward those seeking to save, whether or not for their retirement.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government are encouraging more people to provide for their financial security throughout their lives. The Government's savings strategy is set out in Helping People to Save, published alongside the November 2000 pre-Budget report.

Already, the Government have introduced individual savings accounts, which have been a resounding success: 8.5 million people invested over 28.4 billion in the first year alone; and in the first six months of ISAs' second year, a further 15 billion was invested. In April, the Government will launch stakeholder pensions, which will widen people's savings opportunities for retirement. These will provide a low-cost and flexible means of saving for those previously denied it.

Lord Blackwell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, will he accept that few of these

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plans, including the stakeholder pension as now developed, are likely to provide significant encouragement or help for those on low average incomes to save for their retirement and avoid dependence on the state? Will he confirm that over half the population have less than 750 in savings, and that that is a major concern? Against that background, how many people on below average incomes have lost out to the Government's tax on pension funds? Does the Minister agree that the combination of the tax on pension funds and the extension of means testing, in particular through the minimum income guarantee, means that the Government have significantly reduced the incentive for people on modest incomes to save for their retirement and remove their dependence on state help?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords, on the noble Lord's second point I can confirm that far too many people in this country have little, few or no savings. I am not sure whether the noble Lord's figure of 750 is correct, but it sounds about right. However, I do not accept that the Government have not been encouraging those with lower incomes to save for their retirement. In particular, individual savings accounts, to which I alluded in my original Answer, have been conspicuously successful in reaching savers who had never been savers previously. I refer especially to the cash and insurance options that are available.

As to the abolition of double relief for pension funds in 1997, the effect has not been that which was predicted by the Opposition at the time. On the contrary, it has removed a quite unjustifiable and anomalous temptation for companies to pay out money in dividends rather than encouraging investment in our industry, which is so important for our success.

Lord Northbrook: My Lords, if the Government wish to encourage tax-free saving, can the noble Lord say why the annual tax-free saving amount that existed under the previous government--represented by general PEPs, single-company PEPs and one-fifth of the annual TESSA contribution of 10,000--has been reduced by 30 per cent under the ISA regime to 7,000 per year, and might well have been reduced further had it not been for general protest?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, is right. We have said that the maximum level in any one year for ISAs should be 7,000 and that it will remain so until the year 2006. As to the total permissible value of TESSAs and PEPs, the noble Lord is aware, like everyone else, that it would not have been sustainable for this Government, or any other, to continue indefinitely with that degree of tax-free investment allowance. At some stage one has to say that that must come to an end. We did so by successfully introducing a new system of ISAs, which, as I said, has reached a far wider range of savers.

Lord Saatchi: My Lords, if the savings ratio has fallen from 10 per cent to 3 per cent over the past three

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years and the Government are, therefore, having difficulty encouraging savings, does the noble Lord think that it is a good idea to abolish the tax on savings income?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not believe that the noble Lord's comment follows in any way. Yes, it is certainly true that the savings ratios are low, but the ratio is forecast to rise to 4.75 per cent in 2001 and to 6 per cent by 2003. As to the suggestion that we should be exempting from tax all savings income up to the higher rate band, which is what I understand the Conservative Party is advocating, there would indeed be a gain for some taxpayers. However, the richest 10 per cent of the population would receive over 30 per cent of the gain; the richest 20 per cent would receive about 60 per cent of the gain; and about 85 per cent would go to the richest 30 per cent. That is not only inequitable, but also it would not necessarily encourage new savings.

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