Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2001
180. That is precisely what I am coming to.
Do you feel that local government should be much more powerful
in its way as a provider of local services?
(Lord Haskins) Assuming that we can get the right
quality of people into local government and that is a problem.
181. Are you talking about councillors or professionals.
(Lord Haskins) I am talking about councillors, the
political level. Very high quality people were going into local
government from all political parties in the first half of the
twentieth century. It is not a place where you are going to attract
high quality people at the moment. That is why policy makers conclude
that it is all too hard.
182. You now say the TUC and the CBI are irrelevant
or getting irrelevant. Do you subscribe to that?
(Mr Taylor) I thought that was what the Chairman called
183. I am just intrigued. You are probably going
to get a bottle round the back of the head.
(Mr Taylor) It is one all.
184. Having heard John Edmonds sitting here
talking about the ethos of the public provisions, I am just intrigued.
I should have thought those two organisations have a lot to say
in what we are talking about, which is the provision for this
country in the long term.
(Mr Taylor) Unlike previous members of the Committee
you have slightly misquoted me because I was comparing the situation
with the 1960s and it was a relative rather than an absolute statement,
if you have my paragraph there.
185. You go on to say ". . . would be struck
. . . by the irrelevance of the Trades Union Congress . . . but
also by the rapidly decreasing importance of the Confederation
of British Industry".
(Mr Taylor) Someone who came back to life from the
1960s. I go on to say that one reason why the CBI is less important
in the national life is a very good reason, which is that business
has become more of a natural thing. It does not need special support
or lobby groups. Of course the CBI has a role to play, of course
the TUC has, but they are not in the position they were in the
1960s, thank God.
186. Do you not think business should be lobbying
for more access to running public industries? Do you not think
there should be a sort of lobbying body? You cannot just take
over the Health Service. You said it was the largest employer
in the world, just about above the Red Army. Surely it is going
to need a much broader base.
(Mr Taylor) One of the problems is that if you keep
a part of the economy out of the private sector, you do not have
companies sitting on the side lines who could help you run large
parts of it. You cannot set up a very large business just waiting
for the day when you are allowed into the NHS. That was an argument
which was made against the use of the private sector 20 years
ago, that there was no private sector which could do these jobs,
there were no private sector refuse collectors. There were not,
but they very soon sprang up and they would spring up. They tend
not to lobby before they exist.
187. I am thinking of the larger picture, not
the micro economic.
(Mr Taylor) The larger picture.
188. I know there is the IOD, the CBI and you
(Lord Haskins) Those organisations are no longer strongly
representative of what is happening in the economy. One of the
difficulties government have had in the past is that they tended
to take the easy route out and go to the large organisations like
the CBI, like the IOD, for consultation and policy. That is not
sufficient now because you have all these small fragmented businesses
out there and knowing who represents them, a very motley lot,
defining what a small business is, is a thing we all struggle
with. This Government is trying very hard on consultation. It
has probably consulted more than any other government has before,
but it is not just the quantity but the quality of consultation
which matters. Some of the consultation I have seen does not necessarily
represent the real people out there. The CBI has its own constituency,
IOD has its own constituency; but there are many other business
points of view as well.
189. In your article in the Financial Times,
you make it perfectly clear
(Mr Taylor) Which one of my mistakes is this one?
190. Not a mistake but perhaps a comment or
two on the fact that you have not exchanged a word with the Prime
Minister since 1997 in relation to you being called one of Tony's
cronies. Does it not seem surprising to you, having headed up
the Task Force on Poverty, that you have not exchanged one word
with the Prime Minister?
(Mr Taylor) I was not meaning to complain about the
Prime Minister, I was meaning to complain about the people who
called me Tony's crony. I think I said that if I was a crony,
then it must be the case that his more remote acquaintances do
not see him very often. I am sure I have had a letter from him
from time to time. He is an extremely courteous man, as you know.
I did not actually do a job for him. I have done some work for
the Treasury, for the Chancellor, accountable to the Chancellor.
191. In the case of Lord Haskins, who obviously
has the ear of the Prime Minister, although the Prime Minister
did not take his advice in respect of the foot-and-mouth
(Mr Taylor) How often does he call you?
(Lord Haskins) I think I have spoken to him five times
this year. The last time I spoke to him was some time in June.
I have not spoken to him since I was given the job on foot-and-mouth.
192. In respect of the advice you gave on foot-and-mouth
and the fact that it is reported in the press that Nestlé
led a business delegation to try to encourage the Prime Minister,
successfully as it turned out, not to do the vaccination programme,
does that not send a message out that perhaps the Prime Minister
was thinking of the business motives rather than the animal welfare
(Lord Haskins) I do not know. I was not engaged in
any discussion between the Prime Minister and Nestlé, so
I have no idea about that. Prime Ministers have to balance the
interests of everybody. It is important to get that balance. I
am sure the Prime Minister is the most pro business Labour Prime
Minister we have ever had. There is nothing wrong with that. You
do have to respond to these in a balanced way. The inquiries will
say whether the balance of Government action was correct or not
correct. In hindsight if that vaccination decision had been taken
in April it would not have made any difference. It was just one
of the many options government was looking at during that time
and government has every right to look at options and ask whether
in such a situation this will work or that will work. Taking into
account everything, they decided not to press ahead with that
particular idea. It did not make much difference to the course
of history as it happens.
193. You cited the example of Marks and Spencer
and the fact that they had made mistakes in management and there
were other people in the market who took over some of their business.
Is there not the problem that private management in public services
cannot afford to make mistakes because there is nobody else there
to take up that business, for instance in a hospital situation?
Is that not one of the problems?
(Mr Taylor) There are all sorts of businesses in the
private sector where mistakes are very, very costly and very dangerous
and very costly in terms of lives. Clearly the management of risk
is something which businesses have to take immensely seriously.
If you are running a hospital, you have all sorts of rules you
apply. The private sector does run hospitals, it runs very many.
(Lord Haskins) The answer to your question is that
in the Health Service the answer the politicians will not face
is the issue of choice. Until we introduce some element of choice
at the point of delivery your point is absolutely right. But at
the moment, as in the French health service, when you can actually
choose between one GP and another, you reduce the risk and you
increase the element of competition without in any way undermining
the great gospel of what the National Health Service is about.
194. Can you only get quality through choice?
(Lord Haskins) Not only, but it is much the most effective
way of doing it because the consumer can then make a qualitative
judgement. Otherwise, who is making the qualitative judgement?
The consumer does not have the judgement, therefore somebody on
high is making that qualitative judgement and, as in a monopoly,
it tends to be in the best interests of the person who is running
the monopoly rather than the person at the receiving end of the
monopoly. That is why Rockefeller had to be controlled in 1895.
195. If I am lying in a hospital bed, I do not
want a choice of surgeon, I want a surgeon who can do the business.
(Lord Haskins) Yes, but there has to be some degree
of choice in that, somebody is choosing the good surgeons and
bad surgeons. I am not saying that we are going to transform it
altogether; the element of being able to choose between one GP
and another GP is technically there, but it is seldom used. Maybe
the whole system would be better if it were possible for people
to make those choices more easily than they do at the present
time. The existing system basically is biased against that choice,
even though it is written in at the point of delivery on GPs.
196. I have a bank account and most banks survive
on the fact that most people's inertia means they will not change
their bank accounts.
(Lord Haskins) Absolutely and I think the banks have
been very wicked on that over the years. It took me about 30 years
to realise that I was being ripped off by my then bank and I went
to Barclays actually.
Chairman: The fact that we do not want to stop
is a tremendous reflection on the session we have had. We have
had a most rewarding session and you have spoken to us with splendid
frankness and we are very grateful for that. I am sorry you have
had to come and do business with a bunch of politicians but for
the time being that is the way we run things around here. Thank
you very much indeed.