Examination of Witnesses(Questions 300-319)|
MP, MR ED
THURSDAY 18 JULY 2002
300. Whose judgment is it that 87 per cent have
(Mr Brown) The departments have got to publish reports.
301. Do you think it is adequate that departments
are measuring their own performance?
(Mr Brown) It is right that departments publish their
302. Do you think it is right that departments
should assess their own performance?
(Mr Brown) There is a process of audit going on right
303. Is it right that in the auditing of this
the departments judge for themselves that they have met their
own targets? That is pathetic.
(Mr Brown) Much of the auditing is independent. As
you know very well, there is the National Audit Office that looks
at how departments are performing
304. They do not look at this, do they? The
departments are stitching it up and making judgments on their
own targets. Is a joke, is it not?
(Mr Brown) You would be reflecting on the failure
of the select committee system if you said that.
305. The Select Committee will want to come
back to this issue, Chancellor.
(Mr Brown) Let's be clear about this. There is a complete
misunderstanding on your part about the process. The data that
is produced by departments has got to be audited by the National
306. There is no misunderstanding here at all.
What is going on is departments are evaluating their own performance.
Let me take you to one department in particular, which is the
Home Office, to look at this in detail.
(Mr Brown) You cannot mislead the other members of
the Committee on this. As far as data is concerned
307. The nature of this exchange does not help
the shorthand writers.
(Mr Brown) It is audited by the National Audit Office.
We have an independent system of audit which is in many ways the
pride of Britain in relation to financial systems around the world
and it is an independent system, and you are wrong to mislead
people on that.
308. The Committee will want to comment on this
itself. Let me turn to how you are judging these PSAs to one department
which is the Home Office
(Mr Brown) I think that is a matter for the Home Office.
309. The scrutiny of the purposes to which the
Home Office puts the money from you is a matter for you as well.
You said that in 1998
(Mr Brown) I said to you it was a matter for the Home
Office to publish its departmental reports.
310. That is not my question. You should have
waited for my question. So far, according to Parliamentary Answers
from the Home Office, they have missed 11 out of 16 targets. In
spite of that, in the latest Spending Review you are giving them
a real terms rise of 5.6 per cent a year, so you are rewarding
Mr Blunkett for failure, are you not?
(Mr Brown) Are you saying that the conclusion you
reach is that no more police officers are needed because the conclusion
that we have reached is that more police officers are needed?
311. I am merely following through from what
you said in 1998 when you said you would monitor closely how departments
are proceeding, and if they failed on their targets you might
hold back money. You are doing the opposite of that. A department
that has cocked it up big time, worse than any other department,
is being given a 5.6 per cent real terms rise in spending. It
has been rewarded for failure basically.
(Mr Brown) That is absolutely wrong. The Home Office
is agreeing and implementing a very big programme of reform. It
is as a result of that programme of reform that it is possible
to give them additional resources for the next few years. For
example, in relation to the police there is a Police Reform Bill
going through the House of Commons. There are the basic units,
command units, which are getting far more flexibility but also
far more resources down to them so that they can do the necessary
things. As far as the Home Office generally is concerned, you
had the announcement of the Criminal Justice Reform White Paper
yesterday by the Home Secretary. There have been major reforms
agreed in the asylum system. The idea that there is not a process
of reform in the Home Office to justify the resources they are
receiving is completely wrong.
312. I am surprised that you seem so happy with
the Home Office's performance when it has been deliberately tight.
Let me ask you one final question. In your latest set of Public
Service Agreements that you published with the spending statement
on Monday where you list these out by department, at the end of
the Home Office's section it says "Who is responsible for
delivery?" and it says the Home Secretary is responsible
for delivery. What happens to the Home Secretary if he does not
deliver against the targets that he has been set? Is he going
to get sacked? Dock his pay or something?
(Mr Brown) The Home Secretary has initiated a vast
programme of reform.
313. What happens if he does not deliver?
(Mr Brown) That is a matter for both the Prime Minister
and for the electorate. The important thing I think you should
accept is that in the light of what we have known about the way
the asylum and immigration system is working, the criminal justice
system is working and also the reforms which were needed in the
police system, there is a major programme of reform under way
to justify the additional resources which are needed.
314. Is there any level of failure to perform
on the Home Office's target that might have led you to alter the
5.6 per cent real terms increase? Any level at all?
(Mr Brown) Again, your point seems to be that the
public should somehow suffer through having less police, that
we are not meeting all our objectives. Surely the important thing
is to bring in a process of reform which guarantees that the public
will get the best service.
315. The answer is clearly no. There is clearly
no connection between what you began with when you said "Well,
of course, the influence we have on it is we write the cheques"
and these targets. They are completely disconnected.
(Mr Brown) Mr Tyrie, once again, I do not quite see
where the proposition you are making leads you to. Are you saying
your conclusion would be that we should not finance the police
service? What we need to do is make sure the reforms in the police
service or in the prison service or alternatively in the asylum
and immigration serviceand these are the reforms that the
Home Secretary is proposingare put in place to deal with
problems which arise. That is exactly what is happening. I told
a previous questioner, also, that as far as performance related
arrangements are concerned, that is a matter in terms of permanent
secretaries' pay and of course there is far more performance related
pay than in the past, and that is another process which is working
316. Yes. It is flattering that you have asked
me questions. All in good time, Chancellor. Just for the moment
(Mr Brown) I think you have first got to persuade
your own party.
317. That is also very flattering. We have not
yet found any answers. What we really want to know seriously as
a Committee, and we have discussed this privately, I am not breaking
any rules by saying that, is whether these targets have depth
and meaning. So far we have not been able in exchanges we have
had on this Committee to find any depth or meaning to them. They
seem completely disconnected from the Spending Review.
(Mr Brown) I think this would be a terrible mistake
on the part of the Committee to draw that conclusion having two
years ago drawn a completely different conclusion.
318. We are learning.
(Mr Brown) The National Audit Office reported in March
2001 and said "The introduction of public service targets
and in particular the move to outcome focus targets. . ."
which is what we are talking about today ". . . is an ambitious
programme of change which puts the United Kingdom amongst the
leaders in performance measurement practice." It would be
in my view a very bad mistake on all our parts to conclude that
the targets which have been set are wrong in principle because
it is the one way that departments focus on the results that are
necessary. It is leading to a very big process of public sector
reform which I thought the Committee would want to welcome and
targets are being achieved, for example in primary schools and
in the health service and in other areas, and leading us to be
more ambitious in the future about what we can achieve with public
319. Chancellor, I understand that. We are not
at variance with you on that.
(Mr Brown) That is not what Mr Tyrie said.