Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 108)




  100. I hope this is part of the dialogue.
  (Mrs Dunn) As my colleagues said, departments have already sent in examples of what their Estimates would look like to their select committee with the hope of stimulating a response from the committee as to whether that was the right way to put the information and whether they wanted more or less. We will wait for you to come to us. The first stage was departments going to their select committees.

Mr Davey

  101. This is your first stage.
  (Mrs Dunn) This is about the second stage.

  102. Perhaps we need to talk to our colleagues on the Select Committee for Social Security because they have only asked for four objectives to be analysed on a budget of £91.8 billion.
  (Mrs Dunn) This is the second round of departments showing the formats of their Estimates to their select committee.
  (Mr Rayner) Can I try to explain the background to this particular annex? What we tried to do on this occasion, as on a previous occasion, in response to a request from the Committee, was to show not just the format of the Estimates, nor just the format of the accounts, but how for a real department this all fits together. In each of these cases we have shown the format of the Main Estimate, reflecting broadly what happened in the cash world in the same year, and the format of the Supplementary Estimates, again reflecting the changes that took place during the course of the year, and then the basic format of the out-turn statements, again consistent with the same run of figures. In a sense, what we were trying to achieve was not to give a fully comprehensive view of every part of every bit of those documents, but to show how the various elements fit together. The other important point to bear in mind is that, in terms of looking at out-turn, Schedule 5 is not the only analysis. There are other analyses in the supporting notes to the accounts, which reflect back to the voted element of departmental expenditure, which are broken down in considerable degree by subheadings, by spending sectors and so on.

  103. The whole point of Schedule 5 is to look at objectives and an outcome. What you are talking about now is items, the whole point is to approach this information from a different perspective. If you are telling us that your information is going to be based on an input basis that is not really what we thought we were going to get from this. What we wanted, I thought, from Parliament in Schedule 5 was a look at the objectives, the targets, the outcomes, the outputs and to be able to see the money that is spent on those. We do not want a reference to notes and to input based information, what we want is detailed output information so we can analyse it from that perspective.
  (Mr Rayner) That is part of the overall picture. As has been noted, one format may not fit every department. It may be that in certain cases further analysis is helpful.

  104. When you do this for the Treasury, which is a department we will be looking at—from a sub-committee investigation it is our duty—I will be interested to know how you are going to relate the thirty-two performance targets in the Public Service Agreement for the Treasury to the expenditure of the Treasury, partly because in the analysis I have done of the Treasury performance targets I think twenty-six of the thirty-two are meaningless; two have already been achieved; six are about achieving trends, which are already in existence; five are seemingly vague, where the Treasury judges whether it has met those targets themselves; and five have no relationship to the objective itself. Just to give an example, I am very interested as to how this schedule is going to come about from the Public Service Agreements. You have a target which is providing income guarantee of at least £190 a week for working families by October 1999. That is having a target to have a policy, it is not a target to deliver anything. What I am trying to do is to look at what you published, your Public Service Agreement, what you were trying to do and see how you are going to account for that in Schedule 5?
  (Mr Sharples) The point about Schedule 5 is it was always intended as a breakdown of the resources used against objectives. It was never intended to give a breakdown of resources against a specific target. Its ambitions have always been limited. The second point is that the Schedule 5 information has to be set in the context of the wider information provided in the departmental reports, which for each department provides a detailed functional breakdown of where money is going on particular lines of activity, and that information will continue to be available. The third point is that in relation to the Treasury's PSA we do have quite a lot of targets, more than most other departments. But I would challenge the suggestion that most of them are meaningless, I think each one does reflect an important part of the Treasury's activity. The Treasury will be reviewing its targets, along with other departments, in the course of this Spending Review. I think it is likely that we will have a shorter list at the end of the Review than we have at the moment.
  (Mr Likierman) Can I answer you on a specific question on how Schedule 5 will look? Schedule 5 will relate to the objectives, which are a smaller number, say ten, and not therefore all PSA targets.


  105. They are a chosen list of objectives.
  (Mr Likierman) They are a list of objectives which are in the departmental report as far as I recall. What you will then have is money numbers against those objectives.

Mr Davey

  106. Presumably there will be many objectives where the money is actually spent. So, you may have one to maintain high employment and to raise the rate of growth, that is not going to relate to the expenditure, so we are not going to see that on Schedule 5. What sort of objectives are we going to see in Schedule 5?
  (Mr Likierman) These are the objectives for the Treasury as a whole and are already in the departmental report. There are eleven in the departmental report. That is the analysis that you see in Schedule 5, it will not be each PSA target.


  107. You are drawing a distinction between PSA objectives and the objectives in the departmental report?
  (Mr Sharples) Perhaps I can clarify that. Each department has a hierarchy. It starts with an aim at the top, which is a broadbrush statement of what the department is trying to achieve. Below that is a series of objectives, usually between half a dozen and ten. And then against each objective it has a series of specific targets which are intended to be a measurable statement of what the department is seeking to achieve in pursuit of that objective. It is a target we will be reporting on.

  108. Just remind me, when will the Public Service Agreements be published?
  (Mr Sharples) The out-turn against those targets will be published in departmental reports in April.

  Chairman: We will be turning to that, incidentally, when we can ask the kind of questions that Ed Davey wants to. Thank you very much, I am very grateful.

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