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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: As the Minister says, it is a question of transparency and accountability. We believe that at present the Treasury will pursue matters as it has stated it will. To put something on the face of the Bill has the advantage that it is there for a long period of time. Over the past century or so legislation dealing with public accounts has not been frequent. Sometimes there are advantages in putting matters on the face of a Bill. For example, at times national statistics have not been all that we would expect them to be, and matters have been hidden which ought not to be hidden. It is only for the reason—perhaps a cynical one—that we do not have total faith that these things will be done, as the Minister claims, that we should like to see them on the face of the Bill. This is very much a fall-back amendment. We will have to see how things work out when we come to deal with the national accounting commission at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6 p.m.

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 11:



("(4A) A department shall send to the Comptroller and Auditor General, with the resource accounts sent to him under subsection (4), a performance statement analysing the performance of the department in achieving (by the use of the resources to which the accounts relate) its measures and targets for the financial year in question.
(4B) Departments shall prepare performance statements under subsection (4A) in accordance with guidelines laid down by the National Accounts Commission.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 11 stands in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Bridgeman and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford. With this amendment it may be convenient to consider Amendments Nos. 13, 17 and 19. I have a sense of déjà vu about these amendments. We are seeking to ensure that performance measures are established by the Government and by individual departments to show what is achieved as a result of the expenditure of public money on any operation. The argument about such performance measures has been going on for many years, but we have not yet achieved that objective. This is a rare opportunity to put it into practice.

The matter fits in with the general structure of departmental-related Select Committees in another place that has now been in operation for some time. The ambitions of those committees are set out admirably in the first report of the Liaison Committee, published on 2nd March, entitled Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive. It is, of course, the case that the Select Committees in another place are concerned with the policy, administration and expenditure of the departments that they have the task of monitoring.

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The interests of the Select Committees in policy and, to a lesser extent, administration, far outweigh their normal enthusiasm for looking at the expenditure. I hope that that is not interpreted as a criticism—it is simply that they are burdened with other matters. This is something that committees would be able to do with greater efficiency if they had set performance indicators. Some progress has been made on this as far as departmental reports are concerned. I am slightly out-of-date on that. When they were originally published they mostly featured pictures of the Secretary of State of the day and not much else. Certainly they ought to include this sort of data and, against performance data, targets should be set that the department should seek to achieve.

Will the Minister tell us whether, if we are now to have resource accounts in the form proposed, they will appear as an appendix to the departmental reports or be entirely separate? There is much financial data in the reports as they stand, but the precise relationship between what is now proposed by the Treasury for resource accounts and the departmental reports is something about which I am not entirely clear.

What is surprising is that much of the argument for resource accounting, budgeting, and so on, has been that we shall then be in a position to appraise the performance of individual departments. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to the amendment, but at the moment that link has been broken. We are seeking to have it restored.

In addition, it is no good having performance measures if they are not validated. Clearly it is important in that context that the NAO and the PAC should take that into account, as well as the departmental-related Select Committees. It is true to say that the NAOs venture some years ago into value for money has been very fruitful, but achieving the aim of the amendment—namely, the establishment of clear measures of performance—will be of considerable value to Parliament.

There are a number of areas—not least in social security, with which I am otherwise concerned when I am not preoccupied on these matters—particularly the lone parent initiative and a number of other measures. We need to know exactly what the Government intend to achieve if there is to be any sensible spin-off from the introduction of resource accounts. I hope, therefore, that the Minister can give us a forthcoming response on this point, which is clearly regarded both by the PAC and the NAO, and indeed by those of us on this side of the Committee, as important.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, on this issue. The amendment he has put forward fills an important lacuna in this Bill as it is at the moment. As he made clear, the whole point of resource accounting is to link resources to performance. The purpose of parliamentary control of supply is to ensure that the public are getting value for money with high quality and effective delivery of public services. Performance measures provide an independent validation that this is being achieved. The whole idea of resource

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accounting is to bring the two sides of the equation—the resources on the one hand and performance on the other—into focus, yet this Bill is totally silent on this issue.

The Government have indeed proceeded with setting up a number of performance indicators. We have public service agreements which set up many measures across many departments—arguably too many, with something like 6,500 since the Government came into office. Various performance measures have been introduced over the past three years and some departments now feel that they have rather too many. Indeed, I believe that the Treasury is also beginning to rail back a little on these burgeoning performance indicators.

At the moment there is absolutely no linking between the two, which is what we are concerned about. There is also an anomaly that, so far as local government is concerned, it is now rigorously audited on performance standards. The Audit Commission has been expanded very considerably to take account of this work. It provides a check on performance standards and external validation of the standards that are set. We believe that the National Audit Office should be doing exactly the same for Government departments. It is very odd that what we are preaching at local government we are not actually carrying through in central government.

The Government response, when this was debated in Committee in the other place, was totally inconsistent. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury said that those out-turn statements would be included in departmental reports and under resource accounting and budgeting, alongside departmental accounts as planned. She then went on to say that the amendments would break the essential chain of accountability by requiring performance indication to be included with the accounts and prepared by the accounting officer. I feel that she was muddled and inconsistent in her reply at that time and I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say today.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey : The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, says we need to know exactly what the Government want to achieve. I may turn this back to him. He also says he has a sense of déjà vu about these amendments. Indeed, I have a sense of déjà vu. Amendments Nos. 11 and 13 arise from Committee in another place; Amendment No. 19 was put forward by Mr David Davis at Report stage in another place; Amendment No. 17 was put by Mr Davis to me in a letter in April of this year, which I received in May of this year. I have to ask the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, which of them he wants. I am not saying that he can have any of them, but rather than having three or four alternatives it would be easier if we were debating a single proposition from the Opposition.

Lord Higgins: I believe in choice, but this is also a team effort, so it may well be that these are not entirely original compared with some of the other amendments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Be that as it may, they would all require departments to produce

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performance information. In the case of some of the amendments, they would require the Comptroller and Auditor General to examine that information.

As I have made clear, we have already committed ourselves to reporting annually to Parliament and the public on out-turn against performance targets. We shall be doing this through departmental reports and the Government's annual reports, published in the summer. The structure of reporting will be that, in the spring, there will be the publication of forward-looking information, including performance data and estimates. Then in the autumn, there will be the backward looking information including performance data. It cannot really be said, therefore, that we are doing anything other than enormously improving the quality of the reporting to Parliament from departments.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, said that some earlier departmental reports consisted of the photograph of the Secretary of State and not much else. I am reminded of the grand old man of advertising, David Ogilvy, who said that,


    "If the client moans and sighs,

show his logo twice the size. If he still should prove refractory, show the picture of his factory. But only in the direst case should you show the bastard's face!" Anyway, in the light of what we are actually going to do, there is no need to make it a statutory requirement and doing so would lead to inflexibility. For example, Public Service Agreements relate to a three year period, mirroring spending plans, so performance assessments tied narrowly to a particular financial year may not be as useful as giving Parliament the very latest outturn.

We recognise that for public service agreements to have the effect on accountability and in raising public service performance that they are aimed at, the information which supports them must be credible. The new, independent, statistics commission has been set up with the express purpose of commenting on department systems and commissioning independent audits in areas of concern. It is likely to cover a wide range of performance data and its new role should be firmly established before consideration is given to introducing a similar role in statute for the Comptroller and Auditor General.

We are currently drawing up a performance information strategy—


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