Examination of Witness (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 4 APRIL 2001
100. How do you think it might change?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The cost of the report
was £125,000 not £145,000. I think the way it has to
change is we need to put in some more facts of a statistical nature,
ie identify important targets we set ourselves, indicate in the
report how we are doing against those targets. We have to be careful
not to become too statistics driven, because it would not be interesting.
One needs to, as it were, pick out those targets that we have
set ourselves and that we regard as major priorities and make
sure that rather than leaving those on a website they are actually
in the document itself. The more that we do that the more that
that will help to develop credibility over the years, that the
report is a document which does give an indication as to what
is going on in government.
101. Is there another point, that we are, perhaps,
a bit too target driven, that people have a very good sense themselves
of how the government is doing and ultimately make that decision
in elections. To an extent, it is the very people coming up with
policy that are making targets for themselves.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, but if you accept
the obligation to describe what you have done then you have to
have a method and a language in which to describe what you have
done. That language should be partly, as we have done here, what
people on the ground say about us; it should be partly what the
people engaged in the delivering of our policies say about us
but it should also be, this is what we said would be our target
in this important area and this is how we are doing it. It should
be a combination of all these things. Of course ultimately the
electorate's report on us will determine what happens. That does
not mean that we should not each year try to prescribe it as well.
102. A very quick question on the point you
were making about statistics within the report. What would be
important is to make sure there is year-on-year consistency with
the statistical base you use so that comparisons can be made.
We have already heard that you did not have the manifesto commitments
in this report, although you had them in for the first two years.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They are on the website
for the third year.
103. If you use statistics within a report they
need to use the same baseline for year-on-year comparisons.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is important, and I
have indicated we must try to achieve that.
104. How much targeting of this goes to the
key stakeholders, voluntary groups, pressure groups, those kinds
of people who set the agenda rather than simply just putting it
out and hoping that members of the general public will pick it
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is distributed widely
throughout Government and local government, as it were. I do not
think it is distributed widely among the voluntary sector, I do
not know of any specific attempts made. I am sure that some departments
do send it on to their voluntary sector stakeholder groups. Can
I write to you about the details of that? It is primarily in Government
and local government.
105. Could I ask you to consider that that is
one key area because a lot of the interaction on Government policies
is with different groups and it is an issue of that relationship
between Government and those groups that should be covered within
the Annual Report?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I can see that.
106. Could I just wind us upnot wind
us up, wind us downwith a couple of final things. Normally
when any kind of figures appear something under them says "source".
These are entirely reputable figures at the end here, such as
they are, but they do not have any sourcing attached to them so
we do not quite know where they have come from. It looks a bit
odd not having any source.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) These figures?
107. Yes, the table at the end. In the search
for credibility it is quite nice to have that.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I agree with that. It
would help if they did say the source.
108. I know that total managed expenditure is
the term of art, but of course people have no idea of total managed
expenditure from total unmanaged expenditure. It is a term of
art which is reputable but unexplained. Similarly, someone looking
at this might think are these inflation adjusted figures or are
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I agree with both of those.
109. Are they?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They are cash figures,
they are not inflation adjusted figures.
110. So that is a fairly basic thing that someone
would want to know instantly about those figures.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes. I take your point
there that we could have been clearer in relation to that and
I take the point as well about source.
Chairman: As you are taking on all these pointsno,
I believe you are taking all of these points, I am serious about
thatpeople have raised it in different ways but if you
could get some sharper indicators that the public could get their
minds around on a consistent serious basis, for example on these
global figures maybe a percentage of GDP on taxing and spending
and so on, so you could see year on year what is happening to
basic taxing and basic spending in a way that people could follow.
Mr Tyrie: Percentage of GDP is a very good idea.
111. Would that not be a good idea?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I can see that but if
you look at the top that is quite a good, clear description of
how money is spent and where it comes from.
112. It does that but what it does not do is
what I am suggesting would be helpful so that you could see over
time what is happening to taxing and what is happening to spending.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If you looked at the Red
Book you would find what has been happening over time in relation
to precisely these particular things. This is not intended to
113. It is not very clear any more.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is because Mr Tyrie
is not involved in writing these things any more.
114. That is very nice of you.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) This is not intended to
be, as it were, an accompaniment to a Budget Statement, it is
meant to be a description of what has happened in the previous
year. I take the point that you need something that indicates
progress. We can all think of ways about how one could have a
particular statistical comparator and we have tried to do that
in an attractive way but you have to be careful not to make it
an accompaniment to the Budget.
115. Tony and I at least are agreeing on the
same one here. Do you think that we could have a series of tax
and spend here?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Those figures are in the
116. I just ask the same question again. No
doubt every single statistic in here is available somewhere else
and many others you may put in next time that are not in here.
Here is one of the most basic statistics of all, probably the
most basic statistic for money, much more basic than any of those
on pages 58 and 59, could we have those as a series, please?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is plainly no reason
in principle why one should not, but whether or not it is an effective
and sensible way of getting across what has happened in the year
I am not sure. Obviously I will consider what you said.
117. Thank you for that. One final consideration,
what people want to know is are more trains running on time than
before we came in? Is crime up or down? Are more children passing
their exams? Are people healthier? Basic outcome indicators, would
it not be possible to do on one side of a piece of paper some
basic input and output figures validated, and then on the other
side to have the company statement, the aspirational stuff, where
we are going, so that at least people would know that is the hard
stuff against which we can measure the stuff on this side, would
that not give a whole credibility to the exercise?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sorry to go back to the
website, if you go to the website and feed in your post code you
see where you are on a whole range of indicators like that. The
information is there. What the Annual Report is primarily intended
to be is a description in prose of how the government believes
that it has done over the year.
Mr Tyrie: Can I strongly support what Tony Wright
just said. You probably do not follow the workings of this Committee
and this a rare moment of complete agreement between the two ofcould
you go away and think about that? I think it is even possible
that this Committee could draw up an agreed set of very basic
indicators. Tony has already mentioned four, I think Tony Wright
and I would probably agree we do not want to have dozens of these,
those four we have already agreed and we could probably add a
couple more before the quarrels break out.
Mr Trend: I disagree violently!
118. Can I point out, we have been trying to
encourage the Government to go down the route of using the web
moreand as a Committee we have beenthe fact that
they have in the Annual Report we should not criticise them for
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is a vast range
of incredibly important issues like crime, like health, like education,
like transport, et cetera, et cetera and people want to know what
progress is being made in their area in relation to it. Big figures
are important but they are quite difficult to translate into what
is happening on the ground. That is why the website is quite important
as a means of providing a vast range of information. Once it is
there you have to draft your report in such a way that recognises
that sort of material is available somewhere else.
119. As I said at the beginning, most of the
Committee would want to make sure that the world knew all of the
good things the Government was doing and would, therefore, welcome
an attempt to produce a report of this kind. I hope you will take
away some of our suggestions.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Of course. We have made
it clear that it is a process whereby one hopes one improves year-on-year
on in relation to the production of the report.
120. That is splendid. The bad news is that
we have such informative and enjoyable sessions with you we shall
want you back many times again, not least to talk about annual
reporting. We are very grateful to you for coming along.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Thank you very much.