Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 280-299)



  280. There is no target?
  (Mr Brown) The Home Office has increased the number of people who are removed.

  281. I think you will find there is no target. Chancellor, can I just pick up one other thing you said. You said earlier on that you were not running a command and control economy and that you were not trying to devolve. Are you aware that your Government is running something called a National School Fruit Scheme?
  (Mr Brown) Yes, I am. Can I say as far as the asylum target is concerned, the Home Office, it is on page 14 of the Public Service Agreement.

  282. Is it still 30,000 a year?
  (Mr Brown) It is there. No.

  283. Is it still 30,000?
  (Mr Brown) Sorry. Actually the target is set out in paragraph seven. If you would like me to read it to you I will but it is quite detailed.

  284. What is the number?
  (Mr Brown) What it says is to focus the asylum system on those genuinely fleeing from persecution, including by a fast turnaround of unfounded cases, ensuring by 2004 that 75 per cent of substantive asylum applications are decided within two months and that a proportion including final appeal are decided within six months and enforcing the immigration laws more effectively by removing a greater proportion of failed asylum seekers. That is to deal with both those people who are to have their appeal, those who have had their appeal and those who are to be removed. On the Children's Food Scheme—

  285. Can I just come back on that first point. You have just confirmed the target of 30,000 has been removed.
  (Mr Brown) My point to you is that 75 per cent of substantive asylum applications have to be decided within two months, including final appeal, and that a proportion are decided within six months. Then obviously those who do not pass that are to be removed. That is the target that has been set by the Home Office.

  286. This is a new target. On the National School Fruit Scheme, you said you were not running a command and control economy but you have set up a scheme to deliver a piece of school fruit to every child under eight to every school in this country. Why should Whitehall be doing that?
  (Mr Brown) I know about the Glasgow scheme and that was not decided by us in the Treasury, and certainly was not decided by the Department of Health. As I understand it, it was decided in Glasgow by the local council but obviously if you feel there is another way that has been chosen to run it, but my experience is the Glasgow scheme is a local authority scheme. It was a Private-Public Partnership. It was between Glasgow and a number of the food chain stores. If you like I shall write you a further letter on these matters. I do not think there is any getting away from the fact that was a local scheme. Now, should it go national, the experience and the success may suggest it should and I believe that the Department of Health wants to do this.

  287. You may want to write to us on that, Chancellor.
  (Mr Brown) I am happy to. [6]

  288. The fact is it is a national scheme piloted in Glasgow?
  (Mr Brown) Yes. These, of course, as you would be the first to agree, are matters not for the Treasury because we have not decided on the fruit scheme. It may be as part of the Department of Health's work in relation to health it wishes to put some of its resources into preventative health, and that would be a matter for the Department of Health. There has been no centrally driven decision, certainly, from the Treasury on this. As I say, my own experience of this is in Scotland where I may say it has been extremely successful in both nutrition and in encouraging attention by kids in the school classes. You may wish to see the evidence of that.

  289. You are taking credit for the pilot if it works but you are not taking responsibility if it does not.
  (Mr Brown) I am not taking credit for the pilot because I was not involved in setting the pilot, I just know of its existence. It was a local initiative. It was very successful. In fact it was, as I say, a Public-Private Partnership. I would have thought the whole Committee would want to welcome these initiatives when they are successful like that.

Mr Ruffley

  290. Chancellor, on these fiddled PSA targets, there were 43 per cent of your 1998 PSA targets not met by June 2002. Clearly departments are missing the PSA targets, we understand that. What I would like to try and understand is when you were making funding allocations in this Spending Review, did you punish departments who failed to meet their PSAs when you were deciding their funding allocation because otherwise your system of controls is not worth the paper it is printed on, is it?
  (Mr Brown) No, we did decide our priorities on the basis of what we thought would be successful in the next round.

  291. The question was—to repeat it—departments which have missed their PSA targets in the last two years, were they adversely affected when it came to their funding allocation in this Spending Review for missing those PSA targets? Were they not or were they?
  (Mr Brown) Absolutely. When we decide as to whether resources go to particular departments in particular areas we bear in mind both the record of success and our estimate of what value for money would be achieved. Again these are matters for the departments themselves but it is quite clear in education that what has been achieved in primary schools can also be achieved in secondary schools and therefore more resources going into secondary schools was a good policy which I believe most of us would want to support.

  292. You are talking about rewarding success of the allocation. I am talking about punishing failure. Professor Colin Talbot said there was no evidence of any department being adversely affected in their allocations as a result of missing PSA targets. Can you give me an example of a department that has failed against PSAs being adversely affected when you were dishing out the money this time? Can you give me an example of a department?
  (Mr Brown) It is very difficult to give an answer to a question when you speak over me the minute I start to answer the question.

  293. Give me the name of a department.
  (Mr Brown) What I said to you was that the priorities for this Spending Review were decided on the basis of what we thought had been successful in the past and what would give us value for money in the future. That is the way in which I would think you would want to make decisions. Equally, we have decided in this review on a process of reform within the public services, and departments to get their money have signed up and jointly agreed with the Treasury a process of reform. I listed many of the reforms on Monday when I announced the Spending Review, including how we would deal with failing schools and how we would deal with failing colleges and failing institutions and services, what we would do to reward institutions which were successful and how we would improve the system of local inspection.

  294. You have talked about reward, I am talking about punishing failure when it came to the funding allocation. Now in the time since the last CSR in deciding what you are going to allocate in this Spending Review, can you name a single department that has had its funding allocation adversely affected because it has missed its PSA targets? Give me the name of a department and I will be a happy man.
  (Mr Brown) That is not the point I am making to you.

  Mr Ruffley: No. It is my point. What is the answer?

  Chairman: Give the Chancellor an opportunity to answer.
  (Mr Brown) If you take schools, there are a large number of schools which are regarded as failing schools which during the course of the last few years have been taken over or have been closed down or have been reopened as city academies.

  Mr Ruffley: This is pathetic.
  (Mr Brown) Where an education institution has been failing action has been taken. Equally, in this new spending round we are going to be far tougher where there are failing institutions. Where there are institutions where it is clear that reforms are not being made by the head teacher in charge, there will be, as Estelle Morris said in the House of Commons yesterday, the provision for these schools to be taken over by neighbouring schools, for there to be mergers as well as for the creation of city academies. It is not true that we have failed to deal with failing institutions in these areas where they have existed but the process will continue because the demands and the standards that are being set by the Education Department are higher than they were in the last round and equally the measures they are taking to both penalise failure and to reward success are stronger. I must point out to you that we must not penalise the children because a school is failing. It is our duty, also, to provide education for everyone and the idea that we should close the school and leave no provision whatsoever for the children would be totally anathema to the whole of the population.

  Mr Ruffley: That had nothing to do with the question I asked. I think everyone here knows the question I was asking you and you have declined to answer it properly.

Mr Laws

  295. Can I follow up on this issue. You did say earlier in your introductory comments that as far as the PSAs were concerned transparency is crucial to this whole process. In your view, what proportion of the PSAs that you set in 1998 have now been met across government?
  (Mr Brown) The PSAs we set in 1998 were for the years to 2002 and some of them, for example the education ones, will depend on the 2000 school results—

  296. What proportion have been met across government?
  (Mr Brown) What is going to happen, just so that you are absolutely clear about this as well, is there will be departmental reports by the departments concerned. They will tell you how they have performed in relation to the targets that go right through to 2002. When these report we will bring them all together and obviously we will be reporting to the Committee.

  297. Do you not think, in all seriousness, that it is very feeble that back in 1998 you told us that you were giving departments a load of money, you expected in return for that that they deliver on their targets and you would be closely monitoring this and pounding them if they did not deliver, and here we are four years later and we have not got, it seems, an idea of what proportion of these targets across government have been met?
  (Mr Brown) What is said is that 87 per cent of these have been met but these are recorded in the departmental reports and what will happen is these departmental reports will bring us up to date for the year ending 2002, they will publish their reports, and the debate can continue from there. I think the Committee is under some misapprehension. There was a Comprehensive Spending Review of 1998 and we set propositions until 2002. Then there was a Spending Review in 2000. We made some changes there and we set our targets through to 2004. It is for the individual departments to report.

  298. Who has measured the 87 per cent because it is very different not only to the figures you have heard from Mr Ruffley but the figures we have received from Parliamentary Answers from departments which show that more like a third to 40 per cent have been missed.
  (Mr Brown) You are misunderstanding the point. Some targets are set to 2004, some are set to 2006, and some are set to 2010.

  299. Who has measured that 87 per cent of the targets have been met? Is that the Treasury's estimate?
  (Mr Brown) What is going to happen is that the departmental reports will be published and then a final reckoning can be made.

6   Ev. 47. Back

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