Labour anger at Treasury job cuts

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A fear was growing that the Civil Service was being slimmed down to such an extent that it would no longer be able to implement the programme of an incoming Labour government, Peter Mandelson, MP for Hartlepool, told the Commons last night.

Newly promoted to the Opposition whips office, Mr Mandelson focused on reports that as many as a third of senior Treasury posts were to be axed.

Staff at the central Treasury have already been cut from 3,000 in 1982 to 1,400.

Predicting that the cuts in the Treasury were to set an example to other departments, with health and the environment next in line, Mr Mandelson said Sir Terence Burns, Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, had shown 'some dereliction of duty' by not consulting the Opposition about the changes.

'The permanent secretary has a personal responsibility, independent of the government of the day, to secure the Treasury machine for subsequent administrations.' He should have considered whether the numbers he proposed would be adequate for a Labour government.

The Civil Service Minister Robert Hughes said that after such an insulting speech a period of silence from Mr Mandelson as a whip would be welcomed by many.

There had been a lot of media 'exaggeration' about cuts. The fundamental expenditure review of the Treasury had done no more than recommended that 31 senior posts should be cut, and no decision had been taken yet.

The Government was determined to maintain an 'apolitical' Civil Service, but also one that was cost effective and efficient.