§ 32. Mr. Bayley
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what discussions the Government had with York city council about its citizens charter prior to the Government's introduction of their own citizens charter.
§ Mr. Robert Jackson
I have had no such discussions, but I congratulate York on producing its own charter. I have a copy of its fourth edition here. We would have made it tougher. Nevertheless, I welcome York's commitment to improving public services.
§ Mr. Bayley
Is the Minister aware that York city council was the first public authority in the country to introduce a citizens charter? Each year, when it publishes its charter—it has just published its fourth—it reports on the degree to which it met the standards laid down in the charter. Last year, it achieved a 93 per cent. success rate. The charter also spells out the action that the council intends to take when it has failed to meet those standards.
Will the Minister take a leaf out of York's book, and do the same when the Government republish their citizens 16 charter? Will that charter state where there has been success and where there has been failure and specify the action that the Government will take to ensure that any failure will be put right?
§ Mr. Jackson
The fact is that, so far, the Labour party has been somewhat ambivalent about the citizens charter. I am happy to welcome the claim to priority of invention made by York's Labour council as a token that Labour is prepared to work with us to advance the principles of the citizens charter.
As I said, I have looked at the York citizens charter. It constitutes a worthy statement of good intentions, but it does not go far enough. The essence of the citizens charter approach that the Government are espousing is that there should be clearly specified targets—there are not many in the York charter—that there should be measures of performance against those targets; that there should be procedures for monitoring performance; and that there should be effective machinery for complaint and redress. All that is present in the Government's approach, although it is in embryo form and needs to be strengthened.