Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600
THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 2000
600. To the same extent?
(Mr Gieve) No, the PSAs are the key things with the
Treasury. The Cabinet Office is involved also which is charged
with Civil Service management and modernising government generally.
It will be involved, also, in monitoring, particularly, some of
the process objectives.
601. Recently you published the spending review
of the PSAs, the SDAs, investment strategies and technical notes
you have already referred to, but all separately over a period
of about six months. Would it not have been more helpful to have
published them more or less simultaneously?
(Mr Gieve) There would be quite a lot to read in one
gulp. No, I think we needed some time after the end of the decision
process. It was practical to announce the main business objectives
and targets at the same time as the spending allocations but departments
needed some time after the end of that process where the announcements
followed the decisions very closely. They needed a bit of time
to work on the SDAs and departmental investment strategies, to
work out the details of those.
602. The public is not necessarily helped if
you are going into this serial publication, is it?
(Mr Gieve) No, I do not altogether accept that. As
I say, I think it would have been a bit indigestible to produce
all this paper on one day and if we had done so I do not think
the service delivery agreements or the departmental investment
strategies would have got any notice at all.
603. Could we just turn to the actual targets
that are in there because many of them, it seems, are ones, although
they are unquantifiable, one is making "...substantial progress
towards one million more people being actively involved in their
communities...", that is from the Home Office. To answer
those sort of things you are going to have to be involved in some
sort of public opinion polls or statistics gathering. How are
you going to be assured of the quality and integrity of whatever
results arise from that? Is the National Statistics office going
to be involved as an impartial observer of how these things are
(Mr Gieve) In some cases, yes. This goes back to the
answer I gave Mr Davey which is that we have just published the
technical notes which set out the definitions we will use, how
the measures will be collected and who is, if you like, validating
the information. In many cases the measures will be national statistics
and the ONS will be validating.
604. They will be published as national statistics?
(Mr Gieve) Yes, they already are. In our case we have
an inflation objective, we have a growth objective. They are statistics
published by ONS.
605. Some will go further than that?
(Mr Gieve) Yes, absolutely. In some cases we will
be relying on information that comes out of audit reports but
in many cases, you are right, we will be relying on administrative
data on customer service. It is in those cases, where people have
suggested we need to go further in getting an external validation
of the data, we have not closed our minds to that at all. It is
that which we have suggested in the Sharman Review should be taken
forward in discussion with not just the National Audit Office,
because this covers local government and so on, but with the other
606. Those figures will be published along with
other national statistics?
(Mr Gieve) Not all of these will be national statistics.
They will all be published, the question which we need to do a
bit more work on is whether we have got enough of a process of
external validation of all the sorts of statistics. Some of them
will inevitably be administrative statistics and stuff coming
out of management information systems.
607. Could we look at the overall process. As
I understand it, the process is one where the Treasury and the
Department settle on the PSA, SDA and that is the agreement. Thereafter
the Treasury will be monitoring particularly the public spending
aspects of that. Then there will be a process of assessing whether
the policy targets have actually been met. At the moment I believe
from early discussions the expectation is that last stage, the
assessing of the policy targets, whether they will be met, to
what extent more money will be required extant to get a better
answer, that is going to be done by the Treasury?
(Mr Gieve) First of all, I do not think it is the
case that it is just the Treasury and each individual department.
There are cross-departmental targets which are discussed with
a wide range of departments.
608. They are a separate thing. If we could
concentrate on the individual relationship with the Department.
(Mr Gieve) I would just add one thing which is that
in the discussions of the PSAs, the Treasury, if you like, did
a lot of the work with the individual departments but they were
then put to PSX, a Cabinet Committee of Ministers, and approved
there. The policy unit in particular, and the Cabinet Office,
were also very closely involved in the discussions. Most of the
official work was done not just between the Treasury and the Department
but with the other central departments. Now, coming on to the
question of who judges whether people have met their targets.
This is intended not just to be a private matter between the Treasury
and the Department, the whole point of this is to make it a public
matter. The Department themselves will publish in their reports
what progress they have made and whether they have met their targets.
It is something, we hope, which will be taken up by Parliament
and by the Select Committees. They will get credit when they hit
their targets and they will be asked why they have failed if they
miss them. It is not intended to be a private intra-government
609. Is there some point at which these results
will be looked at not just as one department's outcome but as
the outcome of government as a whole?
(Mr Gieve) Yes.
610. Who will do it?
(Mr Gieve) Eventually I hope the electorate and Parliament
will do it.
611. That is too general. In the system?
(Mr Gieve) Inside Government, we are going to produce
a quarterly report, pull together a quarterly report for PSX,
the Public Services Expenditure Committee, on progress towards
these targets. That is right across the departments.
612. That is the Cabinet Committee?
(Mr Gieve) Yes. We will report to the Prime Minister
and our own Ministers on that.
613. "We" being the Treasury?
(Mr Gieve) Yes, the Treasury operating as a secretariat
in that respect. We will hold the database and the website. We
will draw this information together from departments. So that
is how it happens. Of course this will be important information
which feeds into the next spending review in 2002.
614. PSX is going to be the sort of hub of this
(Mr Gieve) Yes.
615. Which will review the whole thing and therefore
look and see whether Government strategy is working out?
(Mr Gieve) Yes.
616. Is that Committee adequately staffed for
that role? It is quite a major role. Where is it going to draw
support staff from?
(Mr Gieve) It has a joint secretariat from the Cabinet
Office and the Treasury.
617. How many people are involved?
(Mr Gieve) I think there are six formal secretaries.
In effect the whole of the spending side of the Treasury is supporting
the Committee and also in respect of things like the diversity
in employment practices in the Civil Service the whole of the
Cabinet Office is supporting it. So it can draw on those machines.
618. The direct support will be six secretaries?
(Mr Gieve) Yes, but I am one of the secretaries and
I have a staff of 200 people. It is a bit misleading to say it
has only got six secretaries. It has the support of the Treasury's
public spending divisions and the Cabinet Office.
619. So it is going to draw on the staff of
individual departments rather than have any staff of its own?
(Mr Gieve) Yes. It is a traditional Cabinet Office
Committee in that respect.