Power sought to privatise jobs in Scottish Office

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IAN LANG, Secretary of State for Scotland, is seeking sweeping legislative powers to clear the way for a massive privatisation of Scottish Office functions, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Thousands of civil service jobs could be transferred to the private sector under plans covering the Scottish Prison Service, the Scottish Office Pensions Agency, the Rent Registration Service, the Scottish Records Office and Registers of Scotland.

The five activities could be specifically included in a proposed Bill to remove 'burdens on business' and legal obstacles to putting services out to tender. But Mr Lang is pressing for a blanket power to cover all potential candidates for privatisation, including those not in the immediate programme.

In a leaked letter to William Waldegrave, the Cabinet minister responsible for the Civil Service, Mr Lang admits: 'I fully appreciate that a general provision to deal with the statutory constraint of delegation by Ministers to non-Crown servants might prove controversial.'

About 8,000 of 53,000 Scottish civil service jobs are already earmarked for contracting out. John McFall, Labour MP for Dumbarton, called on Mr Lang to reveal how many more posts would be privatised, and when.