WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2001 _________ Members present: Tony Wright, in the Chair Mr David Lammy Mr David Lepper Mr Michael Trend Mr Neil Turner _________ LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON, QC, a Member of the House of Lords, Minister of State, Cabinet Office, (Lords), examined. Chairman 1095. Could I welcome everyone to the Committee and welcome, 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 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 region. 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 Connections 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 Office, 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, any developed after consultation with the Government Offices and with the Regional Co-ordination Unit, 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 speeches. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You may be the only person who does. 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 2001". (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1100. Is that still the case? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, that is on course. We have now got a Unit that exists with an official head, Rob Smith. We have got in place the proposals and guidance as to how area based initiatives should be dealt with. The Unit is there, its structure is there, it has got a ministerial head. I report to the DPM but there is a huge amount of work to do to actually make the culture change it is seeking to achieve percolate through both at Central Government level and through to the Government Offices. 1101. Is there a responsible Minister in the Commons? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The responsible Minister in the Commons will be Hiliary Armstrong. Although I am based in the Cabinet Office I report to the DPM and the person who speaks on behalf of the Unit in the Commons is Hiliary Armstrong. 1102. I am sure this is rather esoteric stuff but what was the thinking behind lodging your Unit in DETR, getting a Cabinet Office Minister doing it? Does this not make it all rather confusing? Why is it not simply the Cabinet Office bringing together Government joined up enterprise? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because, first of all, you need a group of officials who have got experience in dealing with the particular areas of activity that you want the Unit to deal with. Local government is one area where the Unit will have considerable dealings. It will also have dealings with the Government Office, which is something the DETR has done in the past. We want to make it clear it is a cross-Government initiative. This is not the only example of where there are officials in one department but a Minister in another. Another example is the Children and Young Persons Unit which has Paul Boateng as the Minister who is in the Home Office but the officials are in the DfEE. You choose the Department which has some synergy with what is going on but you put the Minister in a different department because then you get cross governmental binding. It has not led to confusion. In relation to a department or a unit whose role is to try to get co-ordination across Government, it is quite useful that the Minister is in the Cabinet Office because you are not perceived to be biased in favour or against particular initiatives. 1103. No. I was wondering really more why it was not just absolutely a Cabinet Office enterprise but, anyway, we do not need to explore that. Can I just go back to the problem to which you are the solution. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am not the solution but I am one of many steps taken to try to contribute to the solution. 1104. The Performance and Innovation Unit Report, Reaching Out, on all these areas, in a nutshell its conclusion was "It is an almighty mess", was it not? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If you go on the ground you see a great collection of initiatives coming where people on the ground believe that sometimes the amounts of money they are bidding for are not worth the problem of applying, the monitoring arrangements are very heavy. Too many people within communities are spending their time bidding and monitoring and too little time is spent actually making the contribution to the community that is required. You want to try to streamline what Central Government does and the demands it places on communities in the money it offers. 1105. The Report says "Clear evidence from those on the ground and from PIU's own analysis that there are too many Government initiatives causing confusion, not enough co-ordination and too much time spent on negotiating the system rather than delivering it". (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1106. Why did nobody think of this? Here is a Government which believes in doing good things and is doing many, many, many good things - let me go on the record - but it is doing it in a way that produces this. Why did nobody at the outset think should we join all this up? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Every Government, and in particular this one, is very, very keen to join things up. At the heart of the problem is that many of the things you are doing are intended to be targeted on particular bits of activity in particular places in the country. They are area based rather than national. That inevitably means you need some sort of bidding process. Those initiatives, because of the nature of our Government, will come from the Education Department, the Health Department, the department responsible for law and order, and they will inevitably be targeted at particular places and particular fields of activity. You could not just with a magic wand suddenly say "Here is X million for deprived areas, sort it out amongst yourselves" because inevitably you need to choose the places you would send it to and choose the areas you would send it to. There is an inherent problem there already. I think we have discovered as time has gone on that the bureaucratic burden that is raised by many of these area based initiatives may not be worth the trouble for quite a number of the people who apply for them. 1107. As somebody who has had to think their way through this, what have you learnt from this about the way in which we do Government that produces these consequences? Here you have a range of departments, it was like putting them all on the starting block, was it not, and off they went with their initiatives? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1108. All with different funding streams. Despite the language of joined upness, it was not happening like that. Is there not something about Government from the centre which produces that kind of consequence? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There will always be a tension, will there not, if you have a deprived area which has failed to thrive over a long, long period of time, there will be a temptation in the centre to think because it has failed to thrive it needs something from the outside to make it thrive. From the local or sub-regional level there will be the sense only we understand what our problem is. It is the bringing together of those two pressures which will normally produce the best result, is it not? The difficulty that we had to start with seems to me to be that we formulated policy too much by reference to individual departments but we remedied that quite quickly by, for example, the formulation of the Social Exclusion Unit which is a way of looking at policy formulation across Government. That does not deal with delivery across Government and that I think is what the Government Offices and their reformed role is trying to achieve. 1109. Is it not the case that if there are two forces that are driving this, one of which is centralism and is from the centre which will do good things and which will put all kinds of levers at the centre to produce good outcomes locally allied to a very strong departmentalism, those two things together will produce these kinds of consequences? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, and they are dangerous and you need countervailing pressures in relation to then. The Regional Co-ordination Unit is a countervailing pressure, the Social Exclusion Unit is a countervailing pressure. A strong centre within Central Government is a countervailing pressure because there you are forcing Central Government departments to look at things in a holistic way rather than departmentally. Just as important as that is a voice within Government that is well informed about what is happening regionally and sub-regionally and hopefully an improved position of the Government Offices provides a better informed voice within Central Government about what works on the ground and what is happening regionally and sub-regionally. 1110. I think what I am putting to you is maybe there is a problem about the underlying strategy as opposed to simply how the outturn is. If I can just quote to you for a moment. There was an interesting article by Matthew Taylor who runs IPR in the Financial Times on 27 February. His argument really is that the Government has given little attention to what he calls capacity building at a local level. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1111. It has all been done through dirigisme. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1112. Indeed, he says, just to quote him, "For every civil servant working to build the relationships on which successful change rests, there is a small army of legislation drafters, target setters and performance measurers". Is that not just the case? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think it is. I can give you chapter and verse of money that has been set aside in the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund in order to build capacity. One of the things that the Social Exclusion Unit's Study of the problems of Neighbourhood Renewal identified as a problem was building capacity sub-regionally to improve the plight of deprived communities. If you are saying there are too many targets, there are too many performance measures, there is too much bureaucracy, obviously that is right and one wishes to streamline it, but that does not get to the heart of the problem you are identifying, does it. The heart of the problem one is identifying is one wants Central Government to look at the problem holistically, what the problem may be, and you want within Central Government there to be a proper connection with what is going on regionally and sub- regionally. So there is a dialogue where central Government acts - this is a paradigm - as one and is properly informed about what is going on locally. 1113. Yes. We shall have to see whether you and your Unit are able to produce this change from the one model to the other, will we not? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We will. I look slightly quizzical because I am not clear what is implicit in your question as to what the current model is? 1114. The current model I was suggesting to you was one that was dominated by nations of centralism and departmentalism and at the centre pulling levers and then things happening locally without much attempt to build local capacity then with the problems of co-ordination. I take it your Unit is engaged in trying to sort that out? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I agree. 1115. Finally on this, on the Unit, so we all get a sense of how this is to operate, is it simply the case that from now on no initiative will happen unless it gets past you? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Unit has set out guidance as to each area based initiative. An area based initiative equals an initiative where there will be different amounts of money for different parts of the country. It is, as it were, money you have to bid for in a particular part of the country if you prove you have got particular characteristics that justify getting the money, so New Deal for Communities, Sure Start, that sort of area based initiative. The process of getting governmental agreement to such an initiative has got to go through the Regional Co-ordination Unit which will examine the question how does this initiative fit in overall? Is it done in such a way that is most effective to deliver whatever aim it wishes to deliver? Does it impose too much of a bureaucratic burden? Can you ally it with other initiatives so you do not have too many initiatives. 1116. So the answer to the question is, yes, it has to go through you? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The reason I am being slightly withdrawn about that is there may be reasons why, after having discussed all those, the benefits of the particular initiative are perceived to be such that it should go ahead come what may but basically in principle, yes. 1117. If people on the ground feel irked by some of these problems we have identified - co-ordination problems, over-regulation, over-reporting, all these things - are you a court of appeal? Can they come to you? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The stage at which we would be involved would be before the initiative is announced. 1118. This is a new system. I am talking about the world as it is now, with programmes in place. Can people who are feeling the strain of some of this, experiencing some of these problems, come to you and say "Look, this needs sorting, we are just being asked to report too often, to bid too frequently"? Can you sort all those people? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Prospectively in relation to new initiatives we can make a real difference. Hopefully in relation to what is already there progress can be made in trying to reduce the sorts of burden you have referred to. Of course, it will be worthwhile raising these matters with the Regional Co-ordination Unit. It is really for the future, i.e. for new initiatives from the date that the Unit is set up that the Unit is intended to bite. Chairman: Thank you. Mr Turner 1119. I am really pleased the initiative you have taken starts to answer some of the major criticisms I have been getting from people in deprived areas I represent, the bidding and all the rest of it. One of the things that is not clear to me is that when you are at the bottom of one pile you tend to be on the bottom of every pile, you do not have good education, you do not have good health, you do not have good housing and all the rest of it. Would it not be better just to say to those communities "Right you are there at the bottom of all these piles, here is a bag of money, go away and deal with it. Tell us what you want to do and give us a programme of what you want to achieve and how you want to get there step by step and we will just monitor that". Then you get rid of all this bureaucracy that you have been complaining about. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) First of all, there is a question about capacity, if there are a large number of communities, as to whether or not if you just gave a great wedge of money what would happen. Secondly, what accountability would there be in relation to it? Thirdly, and this I think is important, in addition to trying to streamline the bureaucracy that comes from area based initiatives, we also, as a Government, say it is obvious that in deprived communities the standard of health and the standard of education tends to be lower than elsewhere. Instead of trying to deal with these problems by area based initiatives we should insist that success in health or education is not measured by the average provisions for health and education but that in areas where there is deprivation, ie where the standards are lower, then health and education, for example, have got to bring their standards up in that particular area to something much closer to the norm. So you are in effect saying mainstream programmes have got to be driven to a level where they produce better results in deprived area. 1120. I am glad you said that because that brings me to the next point and it relates to capacity and accountability. That is that what the Government said in the Green Paper on Local Government was that local government should become community leaders. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1121. Now it seems to me there is capacity within the whole community, as opposed to the section of that community which are deprived, which has got capacity to deal with those services and there is the clear accountability role there. It does not seem to me that the way that Central Government funds local government joins up those needs within those communities. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You mean the way it funds --- 1122. Through the SSA system and all the rest of it. I appreciate there is an ongoing examination of that, but you get many communities which are quite deprived which do not get anywhere near the same amount of money from SSAs as other communities which do not show at the same level. There is a problem there when you talk about how do you go through the mainstream, if you deliver monies for programmes, quite a lot of those programmes are 90 per cent, 75 per cent funding and therefore the rest of the funding has to come from the mainstreaming of local authority. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Or sometimes from other statutory agencies. 1123. I appreciate that, yes. That then leads you to the problem of how do you continue to provide the services for the other areas which are less deprived. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sure. 1124. What happens is they feel much more left out of it and resentful. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. How do we deal with that is the question? 1125. Yes, that is right. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If you have brought your mainstream programme up to a higher standard than at present in relation to deprived areas that will make some contribution to that. The other way, obviously, and this is not --- 1126. That is not what is happening at the moment. What is happening at the moment is funding for those deprived areas is having to take money from the other mainstream areas, it is not the two, because there are not the sufficient additional monies going into the area to be able to fight that and maintain and improve the services elsewhere. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I accept that is not happening at the moment but in relation to mainstream programmes, one of the consequences of the spending review in the middle of last year was that mainstream programmes would have to improve from their own resources the service they provide in relation, for example, to health and education in deprived areas, hopefully on the basis of not taking the money from the undeprived areas. It seems to me that comes from the Government intervention in deprived areas cross-cutting review in the middle of last year. That, although it is not happening at the moment, to some extent meets the point that you are making so that we share the same aspiration there and the Government has done something to try and achieve it. 1127. I look forward to success there. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1128. Can I just go on to another issue which is about letting go I think. One of the problems that you have with Central Government is that ministers want to make sure that they get the credit for whatever happens and civil servants want to get credit for putting that programme in. The reality is that it is only on the ground where that success you are achieving will actually happen. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sure. 1129. The best way of doing that is what you said, to have the capacity within the Unit so they can make those achievements. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1130. That stretching of the dichotomy between those two is a major problem. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You mean between Central Government's desire to be --- 1131. --- wanting to hang on and local communities being the drivers to making the achievements we want. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1132. Now, I think as politicians, central politicians, we have got to recognise that and do an awful lot of letting go than we have done up to now and I do not just mean as politicians, I mean the whole administration, Whitehall as well. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. I think there is a considerable amount in what you say in relation to that. The nature of our democracy is bound to lead, is it not, to the sorts of pressures on the way that Central Government operates. Quite rightly, there is an electoral cycle of four or five years then Central Government, whichever Government is in power, has got to be active and be seen to be doing things. What is more, the electoral cycle and changes in Government provide an impetus for real change so without it you would not get pressure from the centre which is appropriate from time to time to effect real change. But things that transform deprived communities over the long term tend to be much more gradual and tend to much slower processes about capacity building, about reviving economies over a period of time and about reviving people's self-esteem over a long period of time which quite frequently has nothing whatsoever to do with individual programmes. Mr Trend 1133. In the spirit of Fawlty Towers I will try hard not to mention the Dome. I still find it hard to understand quite what the Unit is supposed to do. You mentioned earlier that it was your intention to bite a certain part of the cycle. What does that mean? Can we start by asking what staff do you have? What is your budget? How do you get it? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Government Offices have a budget of I think œ80 million. The Unit itself has a budget of six million pounds and has a staff of 50. Let me give you an example of the things it does. One of the problems, and this is the most obvious problem, many too many initiatives with too many application forms and too much monitoring. One thing they have achieved is they have persuaded a number of departments with initiatives to merge their initiatives into existing initiatives so that instead of the people on the ground having to apply for three lots of packets of money, it is just one. It is that sort of thing. It lacks high profile sectors but it is that sort of cultural change where people within Central Government look to see "Can I join in with somebody else's arrangements? How do I make it easier to deliver on the ground?" that is the job of the Unit. 1134. You are more likely to be approached by somebody from Whitehall than say by somebody from one of the regional offices, Government Offices saying "Can you give us a hand with this?" (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Our role is to be proactive in Central Government to ensure that the burden of initiatives is kept to a minimum as far as the outside world is concerned. Our role is also to develop the role of the Government Offices as somebody who in service delivery terms is able to try to co-ordinate what Central Government is doing. 1135. Do you actually have any formal power over any of these organisations? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have no formal power --- 1136. As Minister? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No I have no formal power over the departments delivering health or delivering education or delivering local authority activity. My only power ministerially is as the minister responsible day to day for the Regional Co-ordination Unit. Picking up the Chairman's point, in a sense his question was do all these new initiatives have to go through the Unit, answer "Yes, they do". The only power ultimately will be if one actually said no to a particular initiative. 1137. When will that happen? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know. 1138. Does the Unit have regional offices or is it all based in Whitehall? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Regional Co-ordination Unit is based entirely in Whitehall. The Government Offices, obviously, are based at regional level. 1139. Do all the people working in it sit together? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They all sit together in Riverwalk House just on the river. They are in the same building as the Government Office for London. 1140. Is it also true that people from the regions will come to you and say "Can you help us with a problem?" (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) People in the regions will not come with individual problems but the regional offices will, from time to time, say there is a problem with this initiative or that particular activity in Government but it will not be in reaction to a particular region with a particular problem. It is more about the process by which Government delivers. 1141. Do the heads of the regional offices meet together? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They meet monthly. They meet every month. 1142. In London? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In London, yes. They meet from time to time elsewhere. They have had awaydays. 1143. Do you meet them? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I meet them monthly. 1144. That is your meeting? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, I go to the meeting. Other things happen as well. For example, other ministers will talk to them about particular proposals they have about delivery of a particular activity in the regions. They will also meet with other departmental officials who will talk to them about delivery. They will have a proper and profound contact with Central Government. They are an arm of Central Government. They are Central Government's voice, eyes and ears and co-ordinator in the regions. 1145. You report to the Deputy Prime Minister? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do. 1146. Your accountability in terms of Parliament through DETR - I do not know how it is done Select Committee wise - would you expect to regularly appear before any Select Committee? Who are you accountable to? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have appeared before the Select Committee for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. That is the one I think that Rob Smith, the Director-General, would regard himself as being responsible to. 1147. That is very helpful. I was baffled when we went to Newcastle at the number of different initiatives and the number of different organisations on the ground. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1148. Many of these are new initiatives, I understand that, and regional offices are still in their infancy and have a history we all understand. Fundamentally I could not see why you had a Government Office and a development agency. Do you have any personal views about that? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do. The RDAs are there to promote the economic well being of the region. They are there to set a plan and a direction economically for the North West, the North East, whichever region it might be. They are not an arm of Government whereas the Government Offices are, as it were, the emanation of Central Government in the region. So, take an example, the Government Office will play a part in co-ordinating Sure Start which is for nought to fours, Connections which is for 14 to 19 year olds, the Children's Fund which is for five to 14, those are three separate initiatives that Government has. They involve different age groups of children but huge numbers of problems that children face are family driven problems rather than individual children type problems. The role of the Government Office in part is to assist those three initiatives coming together. They ensure that the Government's delivery is done in a co-ordinated way. That is a totally different exercise, it seems to me, from the Regional Development Agencies which are there to say what the economic strategy for the particular region should be. 1149. When we were in Newcastle we had a number of examples, but particularly on the police side, of initiatives that the correct person did not know were coming in or did not know were being pruned. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sure. The correct person in the Government Office you mean? 1150. Yes, working in the team of the Government Office, working for the Government Office, that is absolutely right. It did seem to me that there would be an interesting clash of some sort if a Government Office and a RDA should ever disagree about something. Does one have power over the other? Does one supersede the other in certain things? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Regional Development Agencies are, as I say, trying to set an economic framework for the particular region and the economic goals. In doing that, they would plainly have regard to what Central Government's policy is on training and skills, on social exclusion, on economic activity generally. 1151. Whose job in the regions is it to make sure that works? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) "That" being what? 1152. That these are co-ordinated or they understand each other, these two wings of Government? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is for the Government Office to make sure that the Regional Development Agency has a proper understanding of what Central Government's policy is. It is for the Regional Development Agency to set what it thinks the economic framework for the region is and then to get it approved by the regional chamber which has happened in every case, I think. It is not a question of clash because any sensible RDA is obviously going to have in mind, whatever the complexion of the Government may be, they have to have regard to what Central Government's policies are in trying to set an economic framework for the region. 1153. People will always in their minds refer back to London and wonder who is behind a particular organisation, how high up the political pecking order the principal of the organisation is. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In the example given, how high up the chairman of the RDA is, you mean? 1154. No. If you turned up in a region --- (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Which I do quite regularly. 1155. --- when you want to poke around and do this, that and the other, they will say "Here is someone with the ear of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister, we must take life dead seriously". That may be true of some Government Offices, it may be true of some RDAs. It does not alter the basic politics of it which is where the power resides. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In terms of the Government Offices' role, if we deliver over the years in relation to this, what you would want would be the Government Offices being perceived to understand what goes on in Central Government to be the eyes and ears of Central Government and to be somebody who can speak for Central Government authoritatively in the regions and be able to co-ordinate what Central Government is seeking to do. 1156. One last question. The Government Offices do seem to be a very successful amalgamation of people from different departmental backgrounds. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1157. Is that a model which could be looked at in Whitehall? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. The problem you have in Whitehall is a problem of departmentalitis but can you conceive of any model for Central Government where there were not health departments, education departments, home departments? You have to divide it up in some way because Government cannot just be a great amorphous one department. The Government Office is Central Government and the Regions where, in a sense, you are dealing primarily only with delivery of particular things and co-ordinating delivery. At Central Government while you would like to replicate that I think in practice it would be very difficult to do, therefore you need countervailing pressures within Central Government to countervail against the departmental likes of each individual department. I cannot see how you can have a model where there is only one great entity with no departmental-itis or no departments. 1158. There are those cynics who would say that many of these initiatives or units were designed to increase the power at the absolute centre, the Downing Street centre of Government, necessarily in power terms at the expense of departments and responsible ministers. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think that. Take one product of what the Social Exclusion Unit has done which is the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit which is placed in DETR. The purpose of that Unit is to provide a pressure within Government to address the problems of social exclusion. Social exclusion is a problem that health, education, a whole range of departments will come up with, if you have some pressure in Government for saying "When you think about health, when you think about education, be informed about social exclusion, bear it in mind" that looks a sensible way of organising a Government. It is nothing to do with trying to strengthen the centre, it is actually in DETR but it has got a free standing quality to it that puts pressure on departments to bear in mind social exclusion. 1159. I can understand why Government ministers are reluctant to say it is to strengthen the centre. Some Members of this Committee think it is a very good idea, some do and some do not. For a long time some of the departments have just worked their own way in a rather ill defined perhaps ill directed way. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1160. The centre may well be the centre of power. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am not running away from that conclusion but looking at it in organisation of Government terms what you are trying to do is put into the system pressures for a holistic approach rather than simply for achieving individual department goals. If you look at the way the Government has developed - this is the process - the Regional Co- ordination Unit, the Social Exclusion Unit, the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit, these are all good pressures for a more holistic approach. Chairman 1161. Just on this, I think it would be very useful to have your view on it. You talk about countervailing pressures. Is your view that the countervailing pressures we have now developed and of which we are now at one, is this as far as we can take such countervailing pressures or is it simply the beginning of something that is going to be extended and needs to be extended? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think we know how the countervailing pressures have worked or not. For example, in relation to deprived areas we have not seen how the countervailing pressures have operated on health or education or crime prevention yet because they have not been in place for long enough. We have not seen how Government intervention in deprived areas, the policy emerging from the spending review has actually worked. The answer is I do not know. We have put these pressures in place but if, at the end of the day, health and education provision still remains focused on average rather than making special provision for deprived areas it will not have worked. I do not know, I think you have to treat it as work in progress that is evolutionary. If one discovers in three or four years' time that floor targets are being met, if you discover in three or four years' time there has been a genuine streamlining of the number of initiatives coming out and the way their bureaucracy works is much better if you are on the ground, if you genuinely see community capacity building then I think you would think that the pressures have worked. I am not in a position to say whether they will or whether they will not because I do not think they have been in place for long enough. 1162. Is not one countervailing pressure that is needed one that countervails against the Treasury? The Treasury has been a big driver of the whole public service programme locked in through the PSAs. Is it not rather odd, in a way, that the Treasury should be the source of that concerted pressure across Government coming from a Treasury perspective and that some kind of countervailing pressure and a resource centre of countervailing pressure should have been developed to withstand that and offset it? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Treasury in one sense is always a pressure for a more holistic approach. I do not mean that as a joke. 1163. No. No. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Holistic, I do not mean by that their lack of expenditure of money, I mean, for example, it is the spending review which produced the Government intervention in deprived areas approach which means that for deprived areas the provision of mainstream services has got to be brought up to something where you are not far away from the average. That is a more holistic approach. I am not quite sure I have adequately answered or followed your question. Chairman: No, I think we have had a good exchange. David Lepper. Mr Lepper 1164. I suppose I am pursuing the same issue in a way here. A phrase you used earlier was, approvingly maybe, a strong centre within Central Government. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1165. The Reaching Out document talked about changes at Whitehall. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1166. Can you just sketch in for us how far some of those changes have gone? For instance, the document talked about a new Unit, your Unit I take it, superseding the Government Office Management Board. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1167. The Government Office Central Unit and Inter-Departmental Support Unit for ABIs, that process has now happened? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That process has now happened. There was a board of three departments: DTI, DETR and DfEE that supervised the management of the Government Offices. I am sure that when you went to the North East you would have seen there was quite a lot of DETR, DTI and DfEE people. What you do not want is the Government Office simply to be perceived to be a creature of three departments, in order for it to be effective you want it to be the voice of as many delivery departments as possible. Hopefully, as time goes on, the management will not just be the managers of the RCU, which is cross-governmental, but you will see more departments represented in the Government Offices. So that process has gone on. The area based initiative bit of Government is now in the RCU. The Government Office Co-ordination Unit, I think it was called before ---- 1168. Management Board. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, Government Office Co-ordination Unit, is now in the RCU. The process has gone through. The old management of Government Offices has gone, it has now been replaced by the RCU which is cross-governmental and so, equally, dealing with the area based initiatives has been brought into the RCU. So we have dealt with the processes of it but that is only a beginning. Mr Lepper: I am not clear how far that process of change had already gone. I have jotted down the programmes that are working in my own constituency, which is a long one. I will not read it out because some other Members might be envious of the amount of stuff we are getting. Mr Lammy: I doubt it. Mr Lepper 1169. So far as I recall, the first support that we started to get in my constituency of Brighton from anything was actually not from Central Government here but from Europe via Urban Funding and, prior to that, Interreg Funding. I want to talk about UK Central Government funding but in some regions European funding is perhaps the cornerstone of what is going on. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1170. Can you see ways of somehow integrating what is happening there with the work of your Unit? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, I agree with that. If you talk to Government Offices for the regions, not all but some, they exactly make the point that you have made, that European funding can be more important than Central Government funding. The obtaining of European funding is made very much easier regionally and sub-regionally if the region, or players in the region, have a better ida of what they can get, which in part very frequently means what matched funds they have got available to them and what other players in the forest are doing. There is certainly a role for the Government Offices, which they undertake in certain regions, in assisting the applications that are made and the monitoring of European Union funding. That is an important role for the Government Offices. 1171. Is what is now in place a structure which would be very helpful to have in place if we eventually have regional government in England? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is neutral as far as regional government is concerned. Whatever steps are taken towards regional government you need a process and a mechanism by which Central Government policy and Central Government delivery is properly co-ordinated and made more effective in the regions because there is not going to be no Central Government activity in the regions. Whatever model you have for regional government you need a well co-ordinated proper co-ordinator of Central Government in the regions. I have slightly avoided that one. 1172. So it could be helpful if we ever take that future step but, on the other hand, it is a structure that is useful to have in place anyway? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Exactly, and that you are going to need come what may. Mr Turner 1173. What influence do you have on Scotland? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Me personally? None whatsoever. 1174. If you are going to talk about regional government and devolution, what is your role? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have got no role in relation to the policy for regional government. The Government Offices are only in relation to England, as it happens. As far as area based initiatives are concerned, I think they have all been for England and Wales since the Regional Co- ordination Unit was set up. 1175. I just want to make the point that if you have regional government, and regional government is fairly strongly devolved, then your role is going to be that much less because if devolution means anything then it means that the decision is being taken at a devolved level. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sure. I would have thought, whatever devolution arrangements you make for the regions, there would still be Central Government policies involving expenditure of money, some of that expenditure of money will be on an area basis, there will still be need for local partnerships, etc., and you would need a voice in the regions to co-ordinate that for Central Government. Mr Turner: I suspect that I have just discovered another tension. Mr Lepper 1176. Can I just ask one final thing, Chairman. We may or we may not have regional government, but within the system as it exists at the moment, do you see any stronger role for the voluntary regional assemblies? My impression is that they are nice things to have but nobody really knows much about what they are doing and their influence is probably not very strong and not very great. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Where I have seen them in action is in their interaction with the RDAs and in every case in every region they have debated and approved the economic strategy of the RDAs. I am quite loath to get into the area of regional chambers, it is more about regional policy than the role of the Government Offices. Mr Lepper: All right. Mr Lammy 1177. I did not go to Newcastle but obviously, representing Tottenham, some of the things you have been talking about interest me a great deal. You in a sense are charged with making Government work better. I want to examine the relationship between Central Government and local government and how far you see your remit as stretching through to local government, so it is not just government, it is governance in a sense. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1178. How do you think that some of what you have been doing affects the relationship between poor local authorities and local people themselves? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) "Poor" meaning poor quality? 1179. Yes. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sorry, can you repeat the question? 1180. The Chairman certainly pushed you in the sense of capacity building at local level, the sense that Government was not working properly at local level, those sorts of issues, but, of course, there is a distinction between local people and local government. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Local authorities? 1181. Local authorities. A distinction between community and voluntary organisations. Some can be very large and some are, indeed, charged with delivering Government initiatives at local authorities. I wonder how far your examination has got in that to that degree? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) One aspect of what the Government Offices have got to do, which is very much absorbed in Government policy in relation to deprived areas, is ensuring that there is proper partnership working in individual areas, and in particular the setting up of Local Strategic Partnerships to try to identify for a particular area the strategic direction of the use of money, the provision of services. That Local Strategic Partnership has got to exist whether the local authority is good or whether it is bad. The critical thing, it seems to me, is that Central Government has got to use what power it has got to get all the players working effectively together. 1182. Where perhaps Central Government has received some criticism, if you like, of all these initiatives is that it may of course be that ordinary people on the ground are not seeing the delivery of these initiatives because actually there is this other layer after Central Government that is charged with delivery. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The "other layer" meaning local government? 1183. Local government. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Some of them are local government but quite a lot of them are not. Sure Start, Connections, those sorts of area based initiatives do not involve local authorities. Local authorities have got some part to play but it does not depend upon the local authority, the delivery of those initiatives. Education is a different one obviously. 1184. Yes. Certainly in my area, Sure Start is delivered by the local authority and New Deal for Communities is delivered by the local authority. I am not suggesting that my area has a failing local authority but I am looking at the London context and you will appreciate that I was an Assembly Member for London previously. There is some talk about capacity building. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1185. Do you think that the pressure on Government to deliver and to be seen to deliver means that sometimes we do not actually think about the capacity building over a long stretch of time, we want it to happen tomorrow? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We certainly feel, particularly having regard to the work of the Social Exclusion Unit and just seeing what is before you with your own eyes, if you do not spend time on capacity building and spend money on trying to build capacity then you are not going to get long- term results. You do definitely need to build capacity in communities. 1186. How do you think you build that capacity? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think you have got to do it by first of all ensuring that the people who are making decisions for the community have a wider experience of problems. Secondly, trying to get interchange between the policy makers at local level and the policy makers at Central Government level. Thirdly, trying to provide advice to people as to what they can and cannot do, both in relation to their community and with any funds that come. It is a whole range of things, there is no one answer I do not think. It has got to be focused on as a critical problem, I think. 1187. Do you think in relation to poor people in totally deprived constituencies, and my constituency is one of the few constituencies in the country that is totally deprived, every single ward is deprived, not pockets of deprivation, that there is a tendency for Government at all levels to be over-paternalistic and actually to find it problematic, particularly where schools have been failing consistently over a decade or too, to easily consult the people and ask them what they want? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Are you saying that they ask too much? 1188. No. When we talk about the initiatives that we have got --- (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Things like Sure Start, etc., yes. 1189. These things are aimed at the socially excluded and, by definition, the socially excluded are excluded. Many of the people charged with delivering these things are over-paternalistic by nature. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If you are saying it is just the usual professionals who turn up, consult, and then make the decisions, I think there is much too much of that. You really need to get people from the communities you are trying to reach engaged over a long period of time in the process of determining what happens to the community. You have much more experience of this than I. That is very, very difficult to achieve over a sustained period of time because, as it were, the usual suspects on the partnerships tend to be professionals, not necessarily lawyers, social workers, but people engaged on a full-time basis in that sort of thing. You need to think of processes whereby you do properly engage the actual members of the community you are trying to reach, which is difficult. 1190. When you have got a totally deprived area these people do not live anywhere near it usually. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Not always. From time to time in quite a lot of communities you will meet people who, through volunteering, through getting involved in some community project, do genuinely speak from and within the deprived community. 1191. That is the issue of capacity because obviously there is also an issue of capacity in the voluntary sector in the community sector. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, but that is something we recognise that money needs to be spent on because without it you get what I think you are getting at, which is that the usual suspects always talk on behalf of the community in deciding what is best for them. I agree with your analysis. 1192. How much interaction are you having with deprived communities? How often are you in deprived communities? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Me personally? 1193. Yes. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I go around as much as I can. Once a week I will go to some region. I will not necessarily always go to a deprived region but I will go to a Government Office and go with them to somewhere which is dealing with the work that they are doing. 1194. Just one final question. Do you think that the Government has done enough so that ordinary people on the doorstep, Joe Bloggs or Joe Blow, whatever you call him, knows what the Children's Fund is, knows what Sure Start is? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I would have thought if you ask Joe Blow or Joe Bloggs what the Children's Fund is they would not have the foggiest idea, the vast majority of them at the moment. That is more about people not being interested. The Children's Fund is a fund that has not been going for very long. It is about the extent to which people are interested in politics and policy announcements. Are people interested in that? 1195. I think that poor people are interested in money and a lot of these initiatives are about money in that sense, money for their communities, so they are interested. We perhaps need to do more to get that to them but I am not sure that it is Central Government that is necessarily responsible for that. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Right. Okay. Mr Lammy: Maybe local government. Chairman 1196. We need to end very shortly because we have got a second half coming up. Perhaps if I ask quick questions you could give quick answers. Just picking up on David's last point, the question I want to ask arising out of that is does it matter that the way in which Government programmes are being delivered in areas now are so complex that nobody has a clue who runs anything any more? If people do not have a clue who runs anything any more, does that not by itself have a damaging and demoralising effect on the civic process? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think the two things you said are separate. Complexity of programme itself does not particularly matter if you do have an understanding of who is responsible for whatever the fund of money is, whatever the particular delivery is. I do not think one should focus too much on whether the internals of a programme are complex. The more important thing is, is there a sense that there is somebody who is responsible for making life better, providing better education, ensuring that children under five get a fair deal. 1197. And the fact that people do not know who these people are, who is responsible for them, where the money is coming from, what they can do about that, makes it a very impenetrable world. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think it matters a lot because I think the more people do not know about those things, the more they become alienated from all political process. 1198. That was what I was suggesting. When the Committee went to the North East, and again it is borne out by the PIU Report, we heard endless stories of some of the problems. We heard a senior policeman saying memorably to us "we have now got more PIUs than PCs" and we heard someone telling us how typically on programmes, on a three year programme, the first year was spent trying to set them up, the second year trying to do something half useful and the third year planning an exit strategy. In departments now we have people called consumer champions. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1199. Should we not have bureaucracy busters? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think your question was about bureaucracy necessarily. Sir Michael Bichard and Sir Richard Mottram gave evidence to you referring to the fact that sometimes it is good to be prescriptive. They referred to the literacy and numeracy hour in schools. That was something where teachers had to do something and I bet you many of them complained about it but people broadly perceive that it works. There is a good example of prescribing something which works. There are lots and lots of other cases where the prescription does not work but one is talking about the generality, how can one define what is the right side of the line. 1200. I am suggesting that there is someone whose job it is to sort some of this nonsense out inside departments, so people can go to these people and say "look, it is stupid that we are being asked to report endlessly in this way, let us just get on with the job". I am offering this as a suggestion. The final question I would ask you is over the last years, and in the previous government particularly, we have had the notion of compliance cost assessments being developed in relation to legislation. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1201. For business. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. 1202. Is there not a very strong case for having a similar compliance cost system introduced for the public sector? The assumption seems to be that these things come cost free but, in fact, they are hugely costly. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You mean you should be assessing the bureaucratic burden on schools, hospitals. 1203. Yes. For each initiative that comes in, whether directed at local government or anywhere else, you have to put with it some serious assessment of what the cost of this is going to be to that organisation. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I can see real merit in that. It would be a discipline that would force people to think about it. I have not thought about the practicalities so you cannot regard me as committing anybody to it, but I can see that it would be a discipline, like in relation to Regulatory Impact Assessments, where you are forced to think about what the cost to business is of doing a particular legislative proposal. Mr Trend 1204. Would it come within the discipline of setting up units? (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It would. Presumably you would have to say you have got to get your area based initiatives through the RCU and the benefit would be, hopefully, less initiatives. Chairman 1205. We will have to stop. I think we have had a most interesting exchange with you. Thank you very much indeed for coming along. We wish you well with your endeavours. We have not mentioned the Dome. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Indeed. Chairman: Thank you very much.