Examination of Witness (Questions 1095
WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2001
1095. Could I welcome everyone to the Committee
and in particular, our witness for this session, Lord Falconer.
We wanted to explore with Lord Falconer some of the issues to
do with the co-ordination of Government programmes, particularly
between the national level and the regional and local level for
which you have acquired, amongst all your other responsibilities,
responsibility. We may stray into other territory but that is
our main focus.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sure.
1096. Thank you for coming along. Would you
like to say something by way of introduction?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Very briefly. The Committee
has expressed interest in particular in Government Offices and
regional co-ordination, though I think that your interest in co-ordination
may go beyond simply the Government Offices and the Regional Co-ordination
Unit. I hope that you have seen copies of the Action Plan that
the Regional Co-ordination Unit produced last October. It may
help if I just say a very few words about the Regional Co-ordination
Unit and its approach. A Performance and Innovation Unit Report
about the role of Central Government at regional and local level
was published in February of last year. In a nutshell that Report
suggested we were not making enough of the opportunity offered
by Government Offices. We accepted the recommendations of the
Report and I was given responsibility for following it through.
The core of the Regional Co-ordination Unit was established in
April of last year. This stepped up a gear when it had a Director-General
appointed, who is Rob Smith, who is there, who was appointed in
mid July, and the Action Plan was produced in October. The core
work of the Unit is to integrate Government Offices more effectively,
both with other regional representatives in central Government
and with the development of policy in Whitehall. In both respects
we believe that the Government Office had been an under-used resource
for quite some time. We are getting on with establishing Government
Offices as broader based representatives of Government in the
regions. For example, next month MAFF officials will join Government
Offices for the first time. I think the Committee has been to
visit a Government Office in the North East.
1097. We have.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Or the Government Office
of the North East. A series of other initiatives such as the Connexions
Service, which is trying to bring together people who are involved
in problem young people, are also joining the Government Offices
and Government Offices will also have a key role in the new Neighbourhood
Renewal Policy and in dealing with local government. The other
task, apart from developing the role of Government Offices, the
unit has been given is better co-ordination of area-based initiatives.
We are acutely conscious that many positive initiatives can make
competing over-bureaucratic demands on local partners. Our intention
is to link up initiatives and simplify their management structures.
Our first step has been to establish arrangements which ensure
that any new initiatives are only developed after consultation
with the Government Offices and with the Regional Co-ordination
Unit. That is something the Performance and Innovation Report
recommended but it is only the beginning. Both before and after
the publication of the Action Plan we have been getting out and
about talking to interested parties both in Whitehall and at the
receiving end, at regional and sub-regional level. These common
sense proposals have met with general support and in my view represent
a sensible way of modernising and joining up the way Government
works. Not only are we joining up activity in the regions but
that process hopefully is percolating back to Whitehall. It complements
initiatives taken at the centre to promote joint working.
1098. Thank you very much for that. So we are
up to speed I see looking at the speech you gave. I read all your
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You may be the only person
1099. In a speech you gave on this in June last
year, you say "We are further committed to having the main
new arrangements coming out of the PIU Report in place by April
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.