Examination of Witness (Questions 220-239)|
THURSDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2001
220. I will pass, I am getting nowhere.
(Sir Richard Wilson) I refuse to discuss whether there
have been any discussions on the euro in the Cabinet.
Mr Prentice: I thought you were going to elaborate.
221. Did you want to say anything else?
(Sir Richard Wilson) No, sir.
222. Could I just move on to the new units and
talk about those?
(Sir Richard Wilson) Yes.
223. It seems to me that one of the criticisms
of the 1997-01 Government, and it came out at the General Election,
was the failure to get as much delivery as expected to through.
Are the new units not a way of you maintaining the Civil Service
as it is while giving Mr Blair what he wants?
(Sir Richard Wilson) No, sir.
224. So what is it?
(Sir Richard Wilson) I think the new units are more
important. Again, I must say to you I do not accept at all the
model that the Civil Service is blocking Ministers or is resisting
change. I think, in fact, if you look fairly at the evidence,
the evidence is we are going through a huge change and I do believe
that pretty strongly. I hope you accept that. What the units are
about is a new phase in the process of change. In the last Parliament
we had a very big drive on Modernising Government in the direction
of focussing people on delivery, on joining up across government
so we did not get too much caught in particular silos, to use
the phrase, and on the need to modernise the Civil Service in
all sorts of ways through stronger leadership, greater diversity,
bringing in people where we had not got the skills, bringing in
people who were talented, better performance management and better
business planning. If you want me to tell you what we have done
on that I can tell you either now or in writing. I think we have
accomplished quite a lot in the Service in terms of people accepting
what I have just been describing. We have now got to a point where
I think people know in their heads what has to be done. The knack
is actually making it happen. The Delivery Unit, if I may take
that first, which I am really very proud of
225. It was your idea, was it not?
(Sir Richard Wilson) No, it was not my idea, but I
am proud of the fact that we have set it up and I am proud of
the way it is so far developing. It was a decision of the Prime
Minister to set it up, it was his decision, not mine, and I would
not dream of claiming that. What it represents is a selection
first of the four areas which are of key priority to the Government:
health, education, transport and law and order. Within those four
areas there is a selection of a limited number of key targets,
between four and six, which are clearly agreed with the department.
What the target is is clearly defined with the department, in
a manner which is consistent with the Public Service Agreements.
This is a case where we are working very closely together with
the Treasury in defining what has to be done. Then agreeing with
the department how they are going to deliver it and agreeing all
sorts of aspects of delivery, including the staffing of the teams
who will be responsible for the delivery and so on, and how the
performance will be measured. Then single-mindedly focussing on
the delivery of those targets over the next three or four years
with the Prime Minister taking a close, personal interest in that
process. So when I say I am proud of it, I think that model is
a new model, it has within it some very important new developments,
including the simplification and the reduction of the number of
targets, but it is also very ambitious. I think the political
stakes for the Government in delivering a radical improvement
in public services are high. I think the stakes for the Civil
Service in terms of our own reputation and self-esteem are very
high. I think we have got a very big challenge and we are rising
to it, and that is what I am proud of.
226. I am struggling to get my head round where
PSAs fit in. Also, one of the criticisms before was that there
was too much project funding so there was a whole series of pilots
which did not get translated into the whole country. Is the Delivery
Unit looking at those pilots and also, for example, the PIU Report
that reported about the lack of co-ordination at regional level?
Is that the kind of area it is looking at?
(Sir Richard Wilson) No. Can I just go back to the
description I gave you first on PSAs. The targets which the Delivery
Unit is agreeing with the departments are either themselves PSAs
or are component parts of PSAs. We have made absolutely sure that
they are consistent with PSAs so that they support PSAs, they
are not in some sense cutting across them or different from them
and there is no confusion about the message that is being given
to a department. They are a selection of PSAs which have been
picked out as critically important to the Government. That is
the first thing.
227. Are these publicly available?
(Sir Richard Wilson) No, they are not at the moment
228. Are they going to be?
(Sir Richard Wilson) I got that wrong. The PSAs, of
course, are publicly available.
229. We know that the PSAs are available but
if these are entirely consistent with them, why can they not be
(Sir Richard Wilson) That is an issue which I think
leads to Lord Macdonald and it is an issue I will report back
to him on if you would find that helpful. Is that alright? Can
I just pick up on something. The focus of the Delivery Unit is
on the delivery of those PSAs or some PSAs. If a project is part
of a department's programme for reaching that target, then it
will be something the Delivery Unit will take an interest in because
it is part of the programme. The department will put together
a programme describing exactly how and when it is going to get
to where it is agreed it will get to. It has got to be a plan
which is convincing and deliverable and feasible.
230. The actual decision that turns a project
from a pilot into mainstream funding is still the department's,
it is not for the Delivery Unit to do that?
(Sir Richard Wilson) The Delivery Unit asks the department
how it can make whatever the commitment is happen. It is the department's
job, yes, to draw up that plan but the Delivery Unit will want
to be satisfied that the plan is real, properly thought through,
credible, feasible and it can happen.
231. Where does the Treasury link into this?
(Sir Richard Wilson) The Treasury is responsible for
the monitoring of PSAs on which they report to PSX and PSX will
take a very strong interest in this, as does the Prime Minister.
232. Where does the Office of Public Service
Reform fit in?
(Sir Richard Wilson) What we are describing, first
of all, is a performance management arrangement covering certain
PSAs and then, in addition, for other PSAs there is still the
existing machinery which I have described to you.
233. Will it also be the ones in the Delivery
Unit or not?
(Sir Richard Wilson) PSX will oversee the ones in
the Delivery Unit with the Prime Minister taking a particular
interest. You have got performance management, if I might call
it that, although the real performance management happens in the
234. One of the criticisms has been that we
have been particularly bad at performance management in both the
public and private sector in this country. What training are you
doing to build in delivery?
(Sir Richard Wilson) We have the CMPS now ratcheting
up very considerably its training programmes in areas such as
project management. We have laid on a very big training programme
in project management and other skills relevant to delivery and,
again, we can give you information on that if you are interested.
(Sir Richard Wilson) The role of training is an important
ingredient in what I am describing. The truth is, you are quite
right, it is very interesting, and we have had quite a dialogue
with some people in the private sector because we are now trying
to recruit peopleand, if you remember, as part of the reform
programme we identified 100 key posts, we have filled 115 now
of the kind that are relevant to deliveryand what we are
discovering is that there is a national shortage and quite a lot
of private sector employers say that the things we are trying
to do, which are hugely ambitious, are things they too have difficulty
with and are needing people to do. We are in competition. To some
degree what we are revealing is some degree a shortage and weakness
that is not peculiar to the Civil Service.
236. It has been a problem in this country for
some time. What has happened to the Modernising Government Unit?
Has it been wound up?
(Sir Richard Wilson) It has been wound up. That does
not mean modernising government is no longer important. We have
now re-organised the Cabinet Office so that we can build ourselves
around the things that we need to move on to. The essence of the
Cabinet Office is you do a task and then you wind it up and move
on. We think we have embedded quite a lot of things in departments
that we thought were important before, the importance of being
joined up, the importance of better quality and so on. Some of
those functions are in CMPS, which has become part of training,
some are in OPSR, and for some of them we have had said we are
going to redeploy resources.
237. So who is responsible for the modernising
(Sir Richard Wilson) I think they will be absorbed
in the Delivery Unit's work, the PSAs, and the OPSR will have
to do some of them. I think they will now be dispersed across
different parts of the centre.
238. Did anyone announce that modernising government
has been buried?
(Sir Richard Wilson) It has not been buried, it has
been carried forward in a different form.
Chairman: That could count as a classic exchange.
239. Sir Richard, you told us a few moments
ago that you were proud of the Delivery Unit and I just wonder
if your enthusiasm is shared across Whitehall for the Delivery
(Sir Richard Wilson) I would be surprised if it was.
I used the phrase because I think people too quickly get into
apologising for units and I am trying to do the opposite of that
because it is quite a bold venture and we should be proud of it
rather than ashamed of it. That is why I used that language. In
departments we have spent a lot of time talking about some of
this and I think there is a real appreciation of the scale of
what we are trying to do. The culture of the Service is going,
in some respects, to need to change quite dramatically, not losing
core values, not going away from impartiality or merit, nor from
giving the best advice we can, nor losing our integrity, but some
things we have tended to think were important in the past are
things we have to be prepared to shed. For instance, I think the
concept of the gifted amateur who can turn their hand to anything
without support or training is no longer going to serve the purpose.
We have to think in terms of teams at the top of departments who
between them have the skills to manage very large projects and
programmes rather than one person who could turn his hand to anything.
I think that change is important and I think departments are taking
a deep breath at what is being asked of them.