Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600 - 619)



  600. To the same extent?
  (Mr Gieve) No, the PSAs are the key things with the Treasury. The Cabinet Office is involved also which is charged with Civil Service management and modernising government generally. It will be involved, also, in monitoring, particularly, some of the process objectives.

  601. Recently you published the spending review of the PSAs, the SDAs, investment strategies and technical notes you have already referred to, but all separately over a period of about six months. Would it not have been more helpful to have published them more or less simultaneously?
  (Mr Gieve) There would be quite a lot to read in one gulp. No, I think we needed some time after the end of the decision process. It was practical to announce the main business objectives and targets at the same time as the spending allocations but departments needed some time after the end of that process where the announcements followed the decisions very closely. They needed a bit of time to work on the SDAs and departmental investment strategies, to work out the details of those.

  602. The public is not necessarily helped if you are going into this serial publication, is it?
  (Mr Gieve) No, I do not altogether accept that. As I say, I think it would have been a bit indigestible to produce all this paper on one day and if we had done so I do not think the service delivery agreements or the departmental investment strategies would have got any notice at all.

  603. Could we just turn to the actual targets that are in there because many of them, it seems, are ones, although they are unquantifiable, one is making "...substantial progress towards one million more people being actively involved in their communities...", that is from the Home Office. To answer those sort of things you are going to have to be involved in some sort of public opinion polls or statistics gathering. How are you going to be assured of the quality and integrity of whatever results arise from that? Is the National Statistics office going to be involved as an impartial observer of how these things are carried out?
  (Mr Gieve) In some cases, yes. This goes back to the answer I gave Mr Davey which is that we have just published the technical notes which set out the definitions we will use, how the measures will be collected and who is, if you like, validating the information. In many cases the measures will be national statistics and the ONS will be validating.

  604. They will be published as national statistics?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes, they already are. In our case we have an inflation objective, we have a growth objective. They are statistics published by ONS.

  605. Some will go further than that?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes, absolutely. In some cases we will be relying on information that comes out of audit reports but in many cases, you are right, we will be relying on administrative data on customer service. It is in those cases, where people have suggested we need to go further in getting an external validation of the data, we have not closed our minds to that at all. It is that which we have suggested in the Sharman Review should be taken forward in discussion with not just the National Audit Office, because this covers local government and so on, but with the other bodies concerned.

  606. Those figures will be published along with other national statistics?
  (Mr Gieve) Not all of these will be national statistics. They will all be published, the question which we need to do a bit more work on is whether we have got enough of a process of external validation of all the sorts of statistics. Some of them will inevitably be administrative statistics and stuff coming out of management information systems.

  607. Could we look at the overall process. As I understand it, the process is one where the Treasury and the Department settle on the PSA, SDA and that is the agreement. Thereafter the Treasury will be monitoring particularly the public spending aspects of that. Then there will be a process of assessing whether the policy targets have actually been met. At the moment I believe from early discussions the expectation is that last stage, the assessing of the policy targets, whether they will be met, to what extent more money will be required extant to get a better answer, that is going to be done by the Treasury?
  (Mr Gieve) First of all, I do not think it is the case that it is just the Treasury and each individual department. There are cross-departmental targets which are discussed with a wide range of departments.

  608. They are a separate thing. If we could concentrate on the individual relationship with the Department.
  (Mr Gieve) I would just add one thing which is that in the discussions of the PSAs, the Treasury, if you like, did a lot of the work with the individual departments but they were then put to PSX, a Cabinet Committee of Ministers, and approved there. The policy unit in particular, and the Cabinet Office, were also very closely involved in the discussions. Most of the official work was done not just between the Treasury and the Department but with the other central departments. Now, coming on to the question of who judges whether people have met their targets. This is intended not just to be a private matter between the Treasury and the Department, the whole point of this is to make it a public matter. The Department themselves will publish in their reports what progress they have made and whether they have met their targets. It is something, we hope, which will be taken up by Parliament and by the Select Committees. They will get credit when they hit their targets and they will be asked why they have failed if they miss them. It is not intended to be a private intra-government matter.

  609. Is there some point at which these results will be looked at not just as one department's outcome but as the outcome of government as a whole?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes.

  610. Who will do it?
  (Mr Gieve) Eventually I hope the electorate and Parliament will do it.

  611. That is too general. In the system?
  (Mr Gieve) Inside Government, we are going to produce a quarterly report, pull together a quarterly report for PSX, the Public Services Expenditure Committee, on progress towards these targets. That is right across the departments.

  612. That is the Cabinet Committee?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes. We will report to the Prime Minister and our own Ministers on that.


  613. "We" being the Treasury?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes, the Treasury operating as a secretariat in that respect. We will hold the database and the website. We will draw this information together from departments. So that is how it happens. Of course this will be important information which feeds into the next spending review in 2002.

Mr Beard

  614. PSX is going to be the sort of hub of this system?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes.

  615. Which will review the whole thing and therefore look and see whether Government strategy is working out?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes.

  616. Is that Committee adequately staffed for that role? It is quite a major role. Where is it going to draw support staff from?
  (Mr Gieve) It has a joint secretariat from the Cabinet Office and the Treasury.

  617. How many people are involved?
  (Mr Gieve) I think there are six formal secretaries. In effect the whole of the spending side of the Treasury is supporting the Committee and also in respect of things like the diversity in employment practices in the Civil Service the whole of the Cabinet Office is supporting it. So it can draw on those machines.

  618. The direct support will be six secretaries?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes, but I am one of the secretaries and I have a staff of 200 people. It is a bit misleading to say it has only got six secretaries. It has the support of the Treasury's public spending divisions and the Cabinet Office.

  619. So it is going to draw on the staff of individual departments rather than have any staff of its own?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes. It is a traditional Cabinet Office Committee in that respect.

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