Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence



Examination of witnesses (Questions 160 - 166)

TUESDAY 16 MAY 2000

SIR MICHAEL BICHARD, MR PETER SHAW and MS HELEN WILLIAMS

  160. And the employment zones?
  (Mr Shaw) Part of the process of setting zones up was evaluation. As part of all the employment programmes evaluation is built-in there is a strong tradition of that. It is still early days, but there is evidence of progress within employment zones with evaluation built into the adaptation of them.

  161. Can I move to a broader point, and that is the relationship between the Department and the Treasury on employment policy? It sometimes looks as though the Treasury makes all the important decisions in this policy area. Can you explain the relationship, Sir Michael?
  (Sir Michael Bichard) It is warm. You surely cannot expect the Treasury and the Chancellor not to have an interest in employment policy, which is essential to the performance of the economy. I think the worst possible thing would be for each of us to patrol our boundary and try to keep the other out of our territory. I think that there is a warm relationship between the Treasury and the Department. I think there is a stimulating discussion which is going on, and that is not code for saying that there is tension. I think it is a stimulating debate that is going on and we are entirely comfortable with that.

  162. Has the Treasury involvement in employment policy affected the style of intervention which eventually is decided upon?
  (Sir Michael Bichard) The style of intervention?

  163. The kind of intervention. Are you urged to be less sympathetic to claimants, for example?
  (Sir Michael Bichard) To claimants?

  164. Yes.
  (Sir Michael Bichard) Do you mean benefit claimants?

  165. Yes.
  (Sir Michael Bichard) I think we and the Working Age Agency are about achieving a better balance between rights and responsibilities and a focus on the labour market, and ensuring that people who can work are helped into work, because that is best for the economy and it is actually best for the individual. There is no way that you could be a member of an inclusive society if you are out of work. I do not think it is hard on claimants, it is about helping people into work where you can, but also providing security and support for those who cannot work.

Chairman

  166. Sir Michael, I think that is not a bad note on which to end. We have had a very good session. There have been two requests, one is a request from Nick St Aubyn and he would appreciate a letter regarding his £100 million moved to £643 million. Also, my own request would be that the Committee could have a look at this in light of their discussion in higher positions in the Department of Education and Employment compared to higher education. We do not want to look at higher education, but we would like to just have a look at how you are doing in terms of the Department and promoting women.
  (Sir Michael Bichard) I would be delighted to tell you what we are doing and how we are doing it.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. We would like a further breakdown in writing of table 17.3 of the Departmental Report, page 162—I will give you a note of this—to show how many people in each pay-band within the senior Civil Service are female and from ethnic minorities or have a disability. We have had a good session. We have enjoyed it. We have learnt a lot, and I hope you have got something out of it. Thank you.


 
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