Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-144)



140. Yes?

  (Mr Prescott) Well, the Prime Minister does and that has always been so. The Secretary of the Cabinet reports to him directly on that, in matters where we have described there is the division of certain responsibilities for it. Have I got it correctly?
  (Mavis McDonald) Yes, that is right.

141. We have asked the Prime Minister to come and talk to us about these kinds of things. He said it was somebody else's responsibility, Mo Mowlam's. Now we have not got a Cabinet Minister responsible.

  (Mr Prescott) Well, we have somebody who will directly answer for the questions in these matters which will be Chris Leslie in the House of Commons.

142. Not a Cabinet Member?

  (Mr Prescott) No, he is not a Cabinet Member but there is a responsibility. Certainly the Cabinet Member is the Prime Minister.

Mr Trend

143. We must ask the Prime Minister again.

  (Mr Prescott) You have the Secretary of the Cabinet coming, good luck.

  Mr Trend: Not quite the same.


144. Can I just ask, in addition, without going back to stuff we were doing at the beginning, I just would put it to you, the Government is committed to introducing Civil Service legislation. Would this not be the way of just showing people that if this was the first government that had actually put the Civil Service on a basis which gave it some statutory constitutional protection it would see off all these criticisms somehow about politicisation, contamination and all that? So instead of us annually saying that we are in favour of all this, why you not just get on and do it?

  (Mr Prescott) Well, part of that is to do with legislative time. We are not disagreeing in principle. I am not so convinced, and I have heard you on a programme and read you in evidence saying that people feel this, I do not think in the main people share those views. But, leaving that aside, you have properly expressed that and represent the people for that. We have promised to do a legislative framework and I think as you will see when the Cabinet Secretary comes, and I indeed will answer to this effect, we do intend to do that. We do not necessarily totally agree with everything you have said on that. Quite a lot of what you have said is so and we will produce that legislation. I will make it clear that it is the view of this Committee to the Prime Minister and others that you very much feel it should be an order of priority in our legislative framework.

  Chairman: We are very grateful to you for coming along. We share absolutely the Government's commitment to make delivery central. We look to you as the midwives and we shall no doubt want to get the midwives back at some point to ask how the delivery is going and also how you see the system that has now been set up, as to whether it itself is proving effective in doing the job that is being done. Thank you for coming and talking to us so openly and frankly.

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