What is DTI for?
3. The work of the DTI is wide-ranging and complex.
It comprises many of the tasks formerly carried out by four separate
Ministries Industry, Trade, Energy and Labour (later Employment).
From our visits abroad and from discussions with parliamentary
colleagues from overseas visiting the UK, it is apparent that
the wide scope of the department's responsibilities is unusual..
Our inquiries have given us some appreciation of the practical
work done by DTI:
- In 1998 we devoted some effort to looking at
the work of the Export Control Organisation, which is responsible
for export licences. This year we learned something of the work
of the import licensing branch, of around 80 staff, based
- In the course of our inquiry into the delivery
of Georgian nuclear material to Dounreay and subsequent inquiries
into Dounreay and into BNFL, we gained some appreciation of the
work undertaken by the department's nuclear directorate,
including on questions of nuclear security.
- We have reported on the diverse work of the former
SME directorates, some now wrapped up in the Small Business
Service: and on the exercise of the department's responsibilities
for European structural funds.
- We have encountered the department's work in
the field of company law reform, in examining two pieces
of draft legislation.
- Our inquiries into a number of different areas
of manufacturing, and into electronic commerce,
have demonstrated the need for expert officials to be in close
touch with the real marketplace and to be able to represent the
interests of the nation's economy in Ministerial and official
4. In our reports we have on occasion had cause
to criticise the performance of the Department of Trade and Industry.
Sometimes we have concluded that the department's voice had not
been raised as it should have been in Whitehall: for example,
during discussions on the climate change levy. We have also criticised
failures of economic intelligence: for example, over the fading
commitment of the BMW Board to retention of Rover. But inherent
in such criticisms has been a settled recognition that the Department
has a vital role to play at the heart of Government. We suspect
that it is not universally appreciated that much of the department's
business is far removed from its role, which it shares with the
Treasury, in the general promotion of enterprise and competitiveness.
Any notion that its principal functions could be adequately performed
by a Finance Ministry, even one with substantially more staff
than the Treasury, can only be based on ignorance or misunderstanding
of what the Department does now.
Annual Departmental Report
5. The annual Departmental Report (DR) is a professionally
produced, thorough and informative document. Each year has brought
some improvements, some following consultation at an official
level with this Committee. It suffers, however, from one fundamental
defect. It seeks to combine two disparate functions
- an avowedly objective account of the outcome
of the department's endeavours, in the manner of a company's annual
report and accounts;
- an account, which naturally tends to be optimistic,
of the department's plans and aspirations for the next
The latter material swamps the former. The weakness
inherent in this unhappy combination is exacerbated by the spring
publication date, which leads to the out-turn figures being sadly
out of date.
6. The problem is capable of ready solution. Most
Government Agencies produce an Annual Report and Accounts in July
of each year, or failing that in the early autumn. We understand
that the introduction of Resource Accounting and Budgeting will
in due course lead to two separate Reports, one forward looking
in the spring, and one backward looking in the autumn. That will
be welcome. In the interim, we recommend that the Department
make every effort to separate out within each Chapter and section
of the Departmental Report those passages intended to be factual
reporting of recent past performance from those passages which
set out policy and plans for the future.
1 Minutes of Evidence taken from Rt Hon Margaret Beckett
MP, President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for
Trade and Industry, 4 Nov 1997, HC 308 of 1997-98; Minutes of
Evidence taken from Rt Hon Peter Mandelson MP, Secretary of State
for Trade and Industry, 4 Nov 1998, HC 1138 of 1997-98; Minutes
of Evidence taken from Rt Hon Stephen Byers MP, Secretary of
State for Trade and Industry, 20 April 1999, HC 396 of 1998-99;
Minutes of Evidence taken from Rt Hon Stephen Byers MP, Secretary
of State for Trade and Industry, 15 Feb 2000, HC 261-i of 1999-2000 Back
Ev pp 8-23 Back
refer to this as the annual Departmental Report (DR), distinguished
by the year of its publication, as " DR 2000" Back
See First Report, HC of 2000-01, paras , for report of problems
encountered with examination of Supplementary Estimates Back
eg Ev pp 1-8 for answers to Questions on DR 2000 Back
86ff: Ev, p 6, Answer H Back