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An exchange of views . . .

To: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Rt Hon Roger Freeman MP

Thurs 5 Dec 1996

Dear Chancellor

When you visited Norwich in September 1995 to announce the proposed privatisation of HMSO you said:

I don't see this as a threat to jobs. Ten, or fifteen years ago, in the early privatisations, there were redundancies as businesses had to become more efficient. I pay tribute to what the HMSO has already done since 1980, on making itself more efficient. This announcement today is not about losing jobs, although it will be portrayed by my political opponents as such, It's about expanding the market. An opportunity for The Stationery Office, and not a threat.

I worked for HMSO and decided to remain in the expectancy that the new company would bring fresh ideas to excite, stimulate and expand the business. As a manager I felt a duty to those around me, to stay and give what I could to support the new company and my colleagues in the private sector.

Now after only seven weeks following privatisation I, along with all those who chose to stay, am faced with the announcement that over 900 of us are to be encouraged to leave or be made redundant by the new company.

How do you reconcile the actuality with your encouraging words at the start of this exercise only a year ago?
Yours sincerely



From the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Cabinet Minister for Public Service

7 January 1997

Dear Mr Marriage

Thank you for your letter of 5 December about redundancies at The Stationery Office and comments I made in September 1995.

I believed then and believe now that HMSO was in an untenable position in the public sector. It had been losing jobs and expected to continue to do so. It was fighting to stop the deterioration of its turnover and it was battling to halt the growth in costs. All of this was taking place in a market in which suppliers were becoming increasingly competitive and customers were under increasing pressure to achieve value for money. The only way to free the business from harmful constraints was to move it into the private sector not only for its own sake but also to secure the long term interests of staff generally and to achieve value for money for the taxpayer.

You will know that in September 1995, HMSO's business plan suggested that the immediate challenges had been resolved with the prospect of markedly better performance in 1996. However, you will also be aware that the actual result of HMSO's trading in 1995 was worse than its management had predicted and that these problems continued in 1996. Against that background I stated in the House of Commons on 18 March 1996 that, "redundancies have been under way for the past several months and must continue . . . " and that, "several hundred more jobs are still under threat".

All bidders for HMSO predicted and disclosed the need for redundancies and none were significantly out of line with the number that would have been needed to bring the business into control in the public sector. The great difference is that, once a private business is competitive, it and its employees have a bright future. A public sector HMSO would have achieved no more than one further step along an inevitable decline which would have threatened all of the staff.

I recognise that this message will not comfort those directly affected by redundancy but I hope that even they will recognise the need for decisive action to secure the long term future of the business and its staff as a whole.

Yours sincerely,




Postscript:  Roger Freeman MP lost his Kettering seat to Labour by 189 votes in the 1997 General Election and is no longer an MP

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