There is a "serious prospect" of getting unions to agree new redundancy terms for civil servants, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said today, which could bring an end to months of wrangling.
Mr Maude told MPs five of the six civil service unions had provisionally agreed a deal with the Government to reform the "unaffordable and unfair" redundancy scheme which is currently in place.
The remaining union, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, has expressed a desire to get back round the negotiating table, he said.
But Mr Maude warned the Government would impose the provisional deal if a negotiated settlement could not be reached, insisting the PCS should not be allowed to "veto" reform.
During report stage debate of the Superannuation Bill, which originally sought to impose caps on redundancy payouts to civil servants and described as a "blunt instrument" for negotiation by Mr Maude, he said: "What we want to see is a new scheme, a successor scheme, and I think there is now the serious prospect of that being achieved.
"If it can be achieved with the support and the agreement of all six civil service unions then no one will be more delighted than I will.
"But if we have to go down the path of a new scheme which has been supported by fewer unions, then that is still better in my judgment.
"Because it will have met many of the concerns raised better than what we have in the Bill, but infinitely better than the current scheme remaining in existence which is simply unaffordable and unsustainable."
The Government was accused of "bullying" civil servants to leave their jobs with reduced payouts after it announced last week that negotiations on a new scheme had ended.
Mr Maude said five unions - Prospect, the FDA, Prison Officers' Association, Unite and GMB - had made "great efforts" to reach an agreement and were set to consult their members.
But the POA reacted with "fury", saying the Government was giving the impression that the unions had agreed to the new scheme.