Select Committee on House of Commons Commission Twenty-sixth Annual Report

Plans for the future

239. These plans cover the years 2004/05 to 2008/09 and relate to the work of the staff of the House in support of the work of Members and their staff. The first year covered by the plan is inevitably more detailed than later years and some activities will be affected by the timing of the next general election.

240. The plans continue to be based on the eight developmental objectives agreed by the House of Commons Commission in October 2001 (see page 12). Although much progress has been made since they were adopted, the Board of Management believes that they remain valid for the coming year. It intends to carry out a full review of progress early in 2005 and will decide then whether or not to recommend a different set of priorities to the Finance and Services Committee and the Commission for the next period.

241. Against each strand of the plan some measures by which success may be judged are indicated. These are necessarily selective.

Performing the four core tasks

242. The large majority of House of Commons staff are involved in ensuring that the Chamber and committees work effectively and are properly reported on, in making sure that everyone on the parliamentary estate is properly looked after, in providing information and access to the public and in ensuring that our responsibility to maintain an important part of the national heritage is properly carried out. In other words, "Business as usual" consumes much the greater part of the House's human and financial resources.

243. There is a strong tradition of responding flexibly to the needs of the House and its Members, and plans set over a five year period may have to be modified for this reason. However, this does not prevent departments from monitoring the quality of their day-to-day work, for example by measuring turnaround time for correspondence, or satisfaction levels among key customers. While some of the aims set out in this plan are necessarily tentative, they are intended to focus attention on the Board's wish to provide high quality services.

244. "Business as usual" has never meant standing still. The staff and services of the House have always had to respond to shifting patterns of business and sitting hours and will continue to do so. Changes adopted on the recommendations of the Modernisation and Procedure Committees may have consequences which cannot be accurately foreseen, but must be absorbed. The House Service must also look for ways (such as those offered by new technology) for doing old jobs in new, more efficient and user friendly ways.

245. The Board of Management has analysed the results of the 2003 survey for which Members, their staff and House staff were questioned about the quality of services provided on the parliamentary estate (see paragraphs 14-15). The outcome was discussed with the Finance and Services Committee and initiatives arising from the survey have been incorporated in this plan.

246. We will continue to seek demonstrable value for money in every aspect of the House Service. This is a key element of the plan. The Board of Management intends to manage within agreed financial baselines. Departments will need to make economies if they wish to increase spending in other areas.

The four core tasks
Task Indicative measures
Supporting the House and its and committees Satisfaction of the Commission and Finance and Services Committee

Accuracy and fitness for purpose of Vote Bundle, Hansard, committee reports, information and research material from the Library

Security maintained at all times

Supporting individual Members and their staff All services delivered to the standard agreed and advertised

Implementation of the action plan following from the 2003 survey of services

Providing information and access to the public Visitor numbers as close as possible to capacity, positive feedback from surveys of visitors and website users
Maintaining the heritage of buildings, objects and documents Value to the nation maintained by Investment in maintenance/restoration

and preservation - measured by periodic valuations. E.g. stone cleaning and roof restoration.

Underpinning support tasks
Ensure the continuity of the House's day-to-day business through effective planning (including contingency planning) and risk management Statement of Internal Control agreed by National Audit Office
Provide a skilled and motivated workforce. Give recognition and reward for achievement, and ensure that all staff realise their full potential, regardless of level or background, through good learning and development opportunities Investors in People recognition maintained

Vacancies filled successfully (recruits perform strongly)

Training days receiving positive evaluation

Help ensure the wellbeing of everyone on the parliamentary estate through good catering, attention to work-life balance and appropriate maintenance of a healthy and safe working environment Reduction in absence rates

All staff are trained annually in fire safety

Asbestos safely encapsulated and ultimately safely removed

Reduction in accidental injuries on the estate

Health and safety audits

Maintaining reliable IT infrastructure Network resilience and reliability, including remote access
Plan for and manage all of the House's resources to a high standard. Audited accounts accepted

Actions taken on outcome of internal and external audits

Procurement successes e.g. contracts for printing of House papers beneficially renegotiated

Resources managed effectively within agreed baseline budgets

Improving and developing for the future

247. This section covers the eight developmental objectives adopted in 2001, each of which has required planned change over several years and, in most cases, significant project expenditure. Projects costing more than £150,000 (or £500,000 in the case of works) are subject to business case approval. Projects which may fall within this category are marked with an asterisk. This means that the decision to proceed in a particular way and on a particular timescale is dependent on the business case (including value for money) being established and on the availability of funding.

Objective 1: Services that meet the changing needs of the House and its Members

248. The user survey carried out during the summer of 2003 showed high levels of satisfaction with most of the many services provided by the House administration, but it also pointed to a number of areas where there could be improvements. The Board of Management drew up an action plan and the key elements affecting services for Members were discussed with the Finance and Services Committee. These include improvements to the arrangements for the induction of newly elected Members, improved information for Members on the intranet and better information for Members' staff about services and access. As a result of the survey, the Board of Management decided that the Post-Election Planning Group, which had previously been focused on co-ordinating induction arrangements in the wake of each general election, should have a new name - Services Information Group - and be responsible on a continuous basis for the coordination of information about services for Members, including the Members' Handbook and intranet pages.

249. In the 1997 and 2001 Parliaments the House set up a select committee called the Modernisation Committee, which was charged with considering "how the practices and procedures of the House should be modernised". The Committee makes recommendations which, if agreed by the House, become part of the agenda to be implemented by the House administration.

250. In addition to the above, the Board of Management identifies service areas where it believes that fresh thinking is needed in order to keep pace with the needs of the House. Recent examples include accommodation (see objective 2) and IS/IT management (see objective 7). The review of reporting services is included under objective 1 because it was triggered in part by the changed sitting hours of the House and committees.
Corporate goals Indicative measures
Implement the agreed action plan arising from the 2003 survey of services Tangible progress made by the end of the Parliament on:
  • improved channels for feedback and complaints
  • better information for new Members and Members' staff
  • improved information about access and emergencies
  • Improved design and navigation of the parliamentary intranet
Implement decisions made on the recommendation of the Modernisation Committee Decisions implemented on the agreed timescale without disruption to other services*

Successful outcome to negotiations on modified working hours for staff

Implement agreed outcomes of the review of reporting services Report due May 2004

Objective 2: A safe, modern and efficient working environment for the House of Commons

251. Great strides have been made in recent years in improving the parliamentary estate to provide Members, their staff and staff of the House with a safe, modern and efficient working environment. Major developments have included the construction and opening of Portcullis House, the refurbishment of catering facilities in the Palace, the opening of the Jubilee Visitor Cafeteria and the refurbishment of the Norman Shaw South block.

252. The major review of office accommodation conducted during 2002/03 has led to significant changes in the way we manage office space, including a series of pilot projects designed to match the limited space available better to the current business needs of Members and the staff of the House. The intention will be to avoid the need for any major new acquisition of office property other than for temporary projects and decanting during refurbishments. The Commission has also agreed that Members should be encouraged as far as possible to locate constituency office staff away from Westminster because of the pressure on space and services (see paragraph 29). The SSRB is expected to report on Members' allowances during summer 2004 and implementing its recommendations could pose new challenges to the House administration.

253. There are still Members' offices and other working areas which do not meet modern standards and these will be tackled in a continuing programme. We are also seeking to make the whole estate more efficient in terms of energy consumption and recycling of materials (see paragraphs 235-38).

254. Significant enhancements to the security of the estate have been made since 2001 to meet changing risk assessments (see paragraphs 179-81). The matter is subject to review during the early part of 2004/05 and further measures will be taken if needed.
Corporate goalsIndicative measures
Implement the agreed accommodation strategy Objective assessment demonstrates that by 2008 the best possible use is being made of parliamentary accommodation
To improve office accommodation where it falls below acceptable standards Refurbished and re-planned working areas meet health and safety requirements and comply with the agreed accommodation strategy*
To meet or exceed environmental targets set for the public sector -  Reduction in energy consumption per sq metre of floor space year on year

-  10% of electrical supplies to come from renewable sources

-  25% of waste to be recycled

-  100% of waste to be recovered (through incineration to generate electricity)

To make further improvements in access to all parts of the Estate for people with disabilities Implementation of priority projects as identified by disability re-survey of the Palace of Westminster - lifts and access to outbuildings*
To maintain effective controls on access to and within the estate Renewal and enhancement of the pass and automatic access systems by 2006*
Implement outcomes of security review Improvements to security adopted promptly and effectively

Objective 3: Improving our corporate management

255. There have been significant changes to the system of corporate management of House of Commons services in recent years:

  • the introduction of more systematic business and human resource planning;
  • implementation of the "Braithwaite" reforms, including creation of the post of Chief Executive, supported by the Office of the Clerk;
  • application of the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000;
  • application in stages of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (to be completed in January 2005, including application of the Data Protection Act to Parliament);
  • creation of the Audit Committee;
  • creation of a central procurement office;
  • creation of the Parliament-wide IS Programme Board; and
  • introduction of "gateway" reviews for major projects.

256. The full effects of some of these are still to be felt and more work will be needed in coming years to ensure not only that the House complies with statutory and "best practice" requirements, but also that it positively benefits from them. The combined effect will be to make the administration work more as a single, coherent team dealing with a diverse range of functions.

The HAIS project

The first phase of HAIS (House Administrative Information System) introduced a new system to support core finance and personnel functions in the Department of Finance and Administration and Serjeant at Arms' Department (see paragraph 199).

The vision for HAIS 2 is to provide staff, Members and their staff with access from their desktop to the financial and administrative information and processes they need to support their work. This supports our corporate objectives of creating a unified information infrastructure and delivering our services electronically, as well as helping fulfil the IS Strategy for Parliament to reduce the overall number of systems. Through HAIS, departments will have direct access to administrative information which supports the delegated model for delivering our finance and personnel services agreed by the Board of Management.

The primary drivers are to increase efficiency, improve services and provide better access to information. These in turn lead to improved value for money and, in some cases,

Gateway reviews

Greater use is being made of the Gateway methodology to support the effective delivery of major projects. This technique involves a series of reviews, conducted at critical stages of a project's development and implementation, to provide the necessary assurance that it remains on course to progress successfully to the next stage. In addition, a Gateway Steering Group has been established to oversee policy, co-ordinate the supply and training of Gateway reviewers, monitor the progress of individual projects through the Gateway stages, and to report to the Business Planning Group on emerging issues. These arrangements will support the effective delivery of the benefits being sought and provide greater certainty on final costs and outcomes.
Corporate goal Indicative measures
To ensure through strong programme, project and risk management that planned changes to business processes and systems are implemented with maximum benefit and minimum cost Gateway reviews successfully passed; post-implementation reviews identify benefits

Risk management to be embedded at departmental as well as corporate level to the satisfaction of the Accounting Officer and the Audit Committee

To support improvements in business efficiency and service quality through successful implementation of further stages of the HAIS project All HAIS first phase modules in successful live operation

Access and functionality extended to House departments on agreed decentralised model

Post-implementation review confirms realised benefits

To increase benefits and reduce risks by more centralised management of procurement and contracts Contracts/projects delivered on time, to budget and specification

Risk Management

The Board of Management has taken steps to promote sound risk management at all levels. The "high level" risks, below, have been identified and are being actively monitored by the Board of Management itself. The risks themselves will be reviewed later in 2004 to ensure they remain valid.

1.  Disruption to the work of the House as a result of terrorist attack, fire, flood, major IT breakdown or other unplanned event.

2.  Changes to sitting hours and the parliamentary calendar lead to staff overstretch and/or de-motivation and a deterioration in the quality of services.

3.  The House administration fails to recruit and retain staff with the necessary skills to sustain the quality of services and meet changing needs in the medium term.

4.  The House administration suffers financial loss and/or loss of reputation from failure to comply with legal requirements.

5.  The House administration is exposed to criticism for failing to achieve due diversity in the workforce.

6.  The House administration suffers financial loss, loss of reputation and/or loss of amenity through failure of a construction, technology or other major change programme or project.

7.  The House administration is exposed to criticism from the NAO, the PAC and the media as a result of failures of financial planning, accounting and reporting, fraud or demonstrably poor value for money in the delivery of particular services.

8.  The House administration suffers loss or disruption to services through the failure of an external supplier or contractor.

The House administration is unable to carry forward a consistent strategy because of the conflicting demands of different interests in the House and dependencies on the House of Lords.

Objective 4: value for money

257. The Board of Management seeks to ensure value for money (VFM) in all the services that it offers to the House and to the public. Awareness of the need for this has been stepped up in recent years through a range of measures: insistence on rigorous business case justification for all significant investment decisions; improved procurement processes; inclusion of "VFM" consideration in all major projects and reviews; specific VFM audits in selected areas. In addition, steps have been taken to enhance the capability of the internal audit function, including VFM audits, by securing a partnership arrangement with an external provider (see paragraph 225).
Corporate goalIndicative measures
To ensure demonstrable value for money in core activities Action taken on recommendations of VFM audits and other reviews with a VFM element
To ensure demonstrable value for money in procurement Rigorous adherence to procurement best practice and including benefits from House-wide or Parliament-wide contracts

Action taken on IRS audit of contract management

Continued reduction in the catering subsidy The subsidy represents no more than 45% of total Refreshment Department operating costs by 2006/07
To ensure demonstrable value for money in projects Rigorous compliance with business case procedure and management of project risks
To enhance the capability of internal audit to carry out high quality VFM and other audits Outcomes of the 2003 review of internal audit are successfully implemented, including embedding of a partnership arrangement to the satisfaction of the Audit Committee

Objective 5: Developing skills and diversity

258. Renewing our workforce by recruiting to fill vacancies and ensuring that new staff acquire the skills and knowledge of their more experienced colleagues are normal aspects of "business as usual". But the overall profile of our workforce must be changed to meet the changing demands of parliamentary work and changing expectations of society. For example, we are likely to need more people with an understanding of web-enabled electronic services. We will also need to make sure that management skills are developed significantly, to help us keep pace with organisational need. The Commission and the Board of Management are also strongly committed to developing our workforce at all levels so that it comes to reflect more closely the diversity of the United Kingdom (see paragraph 19).

259. We achieved House-wide accreditation for Investors in People status in 2003 and will do all that we can to maintain accreditation in the future (see paragraph 18). To this end we have improved internal communications and have made it easier for all our staff to understand how their work relates to the overall work of the House and to the business planning process (see paragraphs 206-9). We will also continue to organise or support a great variety of training initiatives, both corporately and in departments, with a staff appraisal system which is explicitly linked to personal development for each individual. Our aim over the next few years will be to build on these and make sure that human resource management supports the needs of the organisation as a whole. Maintaining House-wide IiP accreditation would demonstrate that we are able to reap the benefits of consistent staff management and development across all areas.

Management skills

A number of projects to improve managerial skills and competencies are currently underway. To supplement the House's management seminars and conferences, two forums have been established to share experience and best practice across the House on the issues of managing change and project management. A set of management competences have also been developed covering the 'softer' management skills, such as communications and team management. These competences have been endorsed by the Human Resources Group and are being adopted by departments. Further work to identify a comprehensive list encompassing the 'harder' management skills such as budget and resources management will commence in the coming year.

In addition, a working group is putting together a proposal for a House-wide Senior Management Development Programme. The group is aiming to launch this in spring 2005.

Training for information management

The implementation from January 2005 of the right of individual access to information under the Freedom of Information Act, along with the application to Parliament at the same time of the Data Protection Act, will place new responsibilities on the administration to make sure that all staff are properly trained to apply legal requirements and good practice consistently in the area of information management. While significant emphasis has already been placed on sound records management, new training and guidance will be needed to make sure that all information held by the House conforms with the new requirements, including e-mail messages, informal notes and draft documents.

Action on diversity

A diversity forum was set up under the auspices of the Human Resources Group in 2003. The forum promotes the concept and ethos of managing diversity within the House service and advises on policies and procedures in this area, such as the re-survey of the ethnic composition of the House staff which was carried out early in 2004. Another priority for action has been the Young Apprentice Scheme which gives pupils, typically from under-represented ethnic groups, the opportunity to spend some time in the last few terms of their school/college education on work-based learning activities at the House of Commons (see paragraphs 19). Increasing and benefiting from the diversity of our staff remains a high priority for the House administration and failure to make progress has been identified by the Board of Management as an area of significant risk.
Corporate goalIndicative measures
To improve staff training, communications, motivation and involvement Retention of House-wide IiP accreditation

Channels for staff communication and feedback are continuously improved

Learning and Development Strategy implemented

Senior management development programme to be instituted

Revised staff appraisal schemes implemented and embedded

Outcomes of management conferences and seminars are shared and communicated

To expand the provision of relevant specialist support to committees Implementation of further stages of Committee Office staffing proposals as agreed by the Commission
To identify and rectify skills shortages which impede the work of the administration Skills audits carried out in IT, IS and project management

Staff appraisal system is used to identify and develop potential

Development of management competences and training programme

To increase and benefit from the diversity of our staff The workforce becomes significantly more diverse according to accepted criteria

Additional work to be led by the Board of Management with a view to setting more specific corporate goals in this area

Objective 6: Improving public understanding and access

260. This has been a major priority for the Commission, the Modernisation Committee and the domestic committees over the last few years. There are implications for every department of the House. Since 1998 the Board of Management has charged a group of senior officials from all departments (GIP) with developing policy and coordinating activities in this area. Much has already been achieved. For example, the Jubilee Visitor Café has been opened, a well-received Publication Scheme has been issued under the Freedom of Information Act, there have been significant improvements to the organisation and content of visitor tours, a fundamental redesign of the website was implemented in 2002 and a webcasting service added during 2003/04 (see paragraphs 31-38).

261. "Connecting Parliament with the Public" and "A More Accessible Parliament" were major themes of the Modernisation Committee report of July 2002[20] and in a further report of the Committee in the summer of 2004.[21] Similar messages came from the Information Committee report Digital Technology: Working for Parliament and the Public published in 2002.[22]

262. Additionally, the Accommodation and Works and Administration Committees of the House of Commons have reported on "Visitor Facilities: Access to Parliament".[23] The report, which was produced in consultation with the equivalent committees of the House of Lords, recommends the construction of a new reception and security building on Cromwell Green as the next step in improving facilities for visitors and enhancing security. The recommendation was agreed by the House on 11 May 2004.

New visitor facilities

The proposed new visitor reception centre at the north end of Cromwell Green would enhance both public access and security. The details of the proposal can be found in a joint report of the Accommodation and Works and Administration Committees (HC 324, 2003-04). The two Committees also set out a range of other visitor facilities which they described as desirable, including an exhibition space, explaining the work and role of Parliament; accommodation for school parties and their reception; a bookshop/retail facility; a ticket office for tours of Parliament; and a display area for pictures and artefacts from the parliamentary art collections. These options require further study, particularly in order to identify where they could be located.
Corporate goalIndicative measures
To implement high priority recommendations of the Modernisation and Information Committees on using the parliamentary website to connect with the public The website and webcasting are used to increase public engagement with select committees

Further steps are taken to enrich the content and searchability of the website*

To comply fully with all the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act by January 2005 Regular updating of the publication scheme and consistent resolution of individual applications for information
To implement the decisions of the two Houses regarding the creation of a new reception and security building* Satisfaction of the House of Commons Commission and of visitors when completed
To develop a clear and coherent message to the public about the role and work of the House of Commons Key messages are reflected in the public communications of the House administration

A consistent and pro-active approach to retailing and merchandising is achieved

To explore new ways in which citizens of all ages can be involved in the political process and be better informed of the work of Parliament. Successful implementation of outreach projects in partnership with the Hansard Society
To make further improvements to physical access to Parliament* More informative and helpful signs

Improved access for the disabled

Follow-up survey of visitors' feedback

Objectives 7 and 8: Developing our information base; extending electronic delivery of services

263. Both Houses of Parliament now rely on information systems and computer technology in order to discharge their responsibilities to Members and the public. Expectations have increased markedly over recent years in line with awareness of what other public and private organisations are achieving with digital and web-enabled technologies. These are seen to speed information processing, dissemination and retrieval. At the same time there is an awareness that major investments in IS/IT are expensive and need to be carefully managed in order to realise the intended benefits.

264. These considerations mean that Parliament must invest in efficient, reliable and cost effective information systems. Fundamental elements of our strategy are to collaborate with the House of Lords on shared infrastructure, to achieve interoperability between systems and to move progressively towards a smaller set of core systems based, as far as practicable, on standard commercial packages. The ultimate aim is to exploit information systems and technology so as to give Parliamentary and public users ready access to a wide range of Parliamentary information, when they want it and without having to know where it is held.

265. During the winter of 2003/04 the Clerks of both Houses asked the Serjeant at Arms to lead a review of IS/IT management arrangements. The review was completed in March 2004 and will be the subject of consultation and decisions in the coming year.

Modernisation of the network

The Parliamentary Network supports users based both in Westminster and elsewhere. It provides the means by which information is stored and shared and also allows access to centrally provided services such as email, the intranet and internet.

Users are becoming ever more dependent on the IT and IS services of the House and the computer equipment on their desks to perform their day-to-day work. Maintaining a reliable network is therefore essential.

During the summer of 2003 the core network was upgraded to increase its capacity, replace ageing equipment and to allow new services to be delivered, such as webcasting. Upgrades to the perimeter equipment will be undertaken over the next two years.

This work will ensure that the network is able to meet the demands of the foreseeable future and provide the high levels of reliability that is needed.

Our future plans also include providing wireless access to parliamentary data via the mobile phone network and introducing new methods of accessing the network via the web (see paragraph 108).

Corporate goal                                                                                                                      Indicative measures
To plan, deliver and maintain an IT infrastructure for Parliament that meets the business needs, including robustness, reliability and security* Achievement of a fully convergent network that does not under-perform as a result of technical incompatibilities.

Annual targets for availability and stability achieved.

Objectives of IT security and business continuity/disaster recovery projects secured.

To plan and implement a programme of IS projects designed to achieve seamless access to parliamentary information for all users PIMS replaces and enhances the functionality of POLIS (implementation winter 04/05) (see paragraphs 83-4)

Successful completion of all stages of the Vote Bundle project (see paragraphs 93-4)

Improvements to the management and navigability of the parliamentary intranet, including access to web-enabled systems *

Agreement is reached on key standards for interoperability and on permanent arrangements for the maintenance of standards in the future (see paragraphs 210-11)

To identify options for the extension of electronic service delivery The potential for Members to gain secure web access to information in HAIS is assessed and costed* (see paragraph 117)

Electronic tabling is further developed as required by the House (see paragraph 45)

Priorities established for Serjeant's Department services to be offered over the intranet (e.g. room booking) *

To develop an integrated approach to information management in paper and electronic formats which supports business processes, complies with Freedom of Information and Data Protection requirements and guarantees effective management of records Development and implementation of a viable strategy for electronic records management*

Document management and electronic workflow extended to new areas where they bring clear benefits*

Satisfaction of the Information Commissioner where appropriate

To preserve and improve access to historic information sources by making them available in digital form Digitisation of Hansard and other paper documents for which the House of Commons is responsible* (see paragraph 193)
To improve and make more coherent the management of IS/IT in partnership with the House of Lords Successful transition to such more unified and coherent management arrangements for IS/IT as may be agreed by the authorities of both Houses*

20   HC 1168, 2001-02 Back

21   HC 368, 2003-04 Back

22   HC 1065, 2001-02 Back

23   HC 324, 2003-04 Back

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