some default text...
Select Committee on Public Administration Seventh Report


PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE RELATING TO THE REPORT

WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001

Members present:

Tony Wright, in the Chair


Mr David LepperMr Brian White
Mr Michael TrendMr Anthony D Wright
Mr Neil TurnerThe Committee deliberated.
Mr Andrew Tyrie


****

Draft Report (Making Government Work: The Emerging Issues), proposed by the Chairman, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 10 agreed to.

Paragraph 11 read, as follows:

"The issue of maintaining and enhancing a local strategic capacity for the whole governmental machine to act effectively is the crucial one. On our visit to north east England many of those we talked to told of the pressure put on local resources both by the constant need to bid and rebid for central funds and the requirement to comply with a plethora of inspection regimes and externally-imposed targets. We heard complaints about the lack of trust this implies. The problems of excessive centralism have to be broken, both for democratic and delivery reasons. They have started to be broken in Scotland, Wales and London, and this process now needs to be extended in England. The twin imperatives of performance and accountability seem to us to point inexorably towards a system of elected regional government combined with unitary local authorities. We hope that the Government will give serious consideration to how it can speedily move this process forward. There is also the issue of complexity: in a world of partnerships, zones and area-based initiatives, there can be a real problem for accountability if citizens do not know who is responsible for the programmes that impact upon them. We believe that this is an issue that requires more consideration than it has so far received."

Amendment proposed, in line 5, to leave out from "implies" to the end of the paragraph— (Mr Andrew Tyrie.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 4
Mr Andrew TyrieMr David Lepper
Mr Neil Turner
Mr Brian White
Mr Anthony D Wright

Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraph 12 read, as follows:

"One of the key principles of the 'Modernising Government' programme is to 'value public service rather than to denigrate it'. This switch of direction (now accepted by all major parties) came against a background where in the 1990s it was widely believed that the emphasis of government was on cutting the cost of public services, privatising them, and criticising the performance of public sector workers. We welcome the Government's clear endorsement of the public service ideal. A shared ethical commitment to this ideal across the public sector continues to provide some of the underpinnings and guarantees for maintaining and developing good performance and standards. However, it is not enough to value public service ideals in an abstract way. They need to be actively encouraged and positively cultivated. We believe that there is much more that can and should be done on this front. For example, we think that it might be helpful for all public servants to be given a copy of a Public Service Code, incorporating the 'seven principles of public life' developed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. We also think it would be useful for all new staff of agencies or departments, designated as 'public service' organisations, to receive appropriate induction and training in what the ethos of public service entails and implies. In his evidence to us David Walker argued the merits of a single, unified public service for Britain. While we remain unpersuaded by this idea, we do accept that benefits could flow from a determined effort to disseminate a unified public service ethos throughout the public sector."

Amendment proposed, in line 4, to leave out from the word "them" to the word "We" in line 5—(Mr Andrew Tyrie.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 4
Mr Andrew TyrieMr David Lepper
Mr Neil Turner
Mr Brian White
Mr Anthony D Wright

Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraphs 13 to 28 agreed to.

Paragraph 29 read, as follows:

"As a result of Sir Richard's Report, each government department has established its own diversity action plan and the Cabinet Office set service-wide targets for the senior Civil Service. The service-wide targets are that: the number of women in the senior civil service is to be increased from 17.8 per cent in 1998 to 35 per cent in 2005; the representation of people with disabilities is to be increased from 1.5 per cent in 1998 to 3 per cent in 2005; and the representation of people from an ethnic minority background should rise from 1.6 per cent to 3.2 per cent. (At 14 December 2000 the actual figures were 1.7 per cent for people with disabilities, 2.1 per cent from an ethnic minority background and 22 per cent for women.) We are concerned that these desirable targets are not all that likely to be achieved. Sir Richard Wilson said that the target for the percentage of women in the senior civil service was unlikely to be reached because there were not enough women in the ranks just below who were in line for promotion. If this one target cannot be met, for reasons which could have been foreseen, it is possible that others may be equally doubtful; and it raises questions about the basis of such target-setting. We take it for granted tha the pursuit of targets will not be at the expense of quality".

Amendment proposed, in line 9, to leave out the word "desirable"—(Mr Andrew Tyrie.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 4
Mr Andrew TyrieMr David Lepper
Mr Neil Turner
Mr Brian White
Mr Anthony D Wright
Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraphs 30 to 39 agreed to.

Paragraph 40 read, as follows:

"In all of this it is important to keep citizens at the front of the picture. For example, individual citizens could be given a brief synoptic account of how the money raised in central taxation has been spent. Work in central government-sponsored focus groups has shown that many citizens spontaneously mention the leaflets which local authorities distribute each year explaining their expenditures and revenues, at the time when council tax payments are notified. There is currently no central government equivalent of this direct communication, for example a leaflet circulated with Inland Revenue income tax forms. The Government has instituted an Annual Report, an innovation which we welcome, which is extensively distributed in supermarkets and elsewhere. But this document is strongly presentational and its statements are not independently verified or endorsed, which we believe they should be. The real drivers of audit and accountability in public services should be what users want from services, and their experience of them. The centrality of effective complaint and redress mechanisms need to be recognised. An approach that begins to define a serious framework of rights (and responsibilities) for public service users of the kind tentatively developed under the Citizen's Charter, but somewhat lost sight of subsequently, needs to be resurrected and extended. Public services need to be open for business at times and in places convenient for those who use them. We look to the 'consumer champions' in each Department, and to the Service First Unit in the Cabinet Office, to move these issues forward."

Amendment proposed, in line 7, to leave out the words "an innovation which we welcome"—(Mr Andrew Tyrie.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 4
Mr Andrew TyrieMr David Lepper
Mr Neil Turner
Mr Brian White
Mr Anthony D Wright

Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraphs 41 and 43 agreed to.

Annex agreed to.

Resolved, That the Report be the Seventh Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chairman do make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That the provisions of Standing Order No 134 (Select Committees (Reports)) be applied to the Report.

****


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 10 April 2001