HC Deb 04 June 1997 vol 295 cc381-2
7. Mr. Evans: T

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what measures he intends to take to ensure value for money from public services. [525]

Mr. Kilfoyle

The Government want to achieve high-quality public services which are efficient and focus on people's needs. We have already made a start by setting up the comprehensive spending review. That will examine ways to make better use of resources and root out inefficiency in public spending.

Mr. Evans

I am delighted to learn that the Government are trying to attack public spending on public services, but are they sending the right message to the public—that they will obtain the best public services—when, at the very top, the civil service, political appointments have increased from 38 to 53? Is not that a massive increase? Do we know whether it will stop at 53, or will there be yet more political appointments in the civil service? In the spirit of openness and transparency—in which the Government believe—will the Minister confirm that Sir Robin Butler has not said that he is "seriously unrelaxed" about the number of political appointments that have been made within government?

Mr. Kilfoyle

Not for the first time, the premise on which the hon. Gentleman bases his question is wrong. The message going out from the Government to the British people concerns accountability, accessibility, the responsiveness of government and a drive for greater efficiency. That is why, since 2 May, we have announced not only a comprehensive spending review, but a review of the private finance initiative and the public-private partnerships. We have also announced measures on the electronic delivery of Government services, the Department's efficiency plans and that we will reconsider the agency targets for Ministers. That is the message that is going out from a Government who are gearing up for the 21st century, unlike the previous Government who were geared to the 19th.

Mr. Pike

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment. Will he make it a priority to ensure that quangos and training and enterprise councils, which were stacked with Tory nominees by the previous Government, are made more accountable and that they give value for money?

Mr. Kilfoyle

I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall reconsider the whole system of appointments to quangos, their necessity and the principles of accountability as part of a full-scale review which my right hon. Friend has already announced.

Mr. Grieve

As the hon. Gentleman is concerned about open government and public spending, will he undertake to publish the salaries of all the new special advisers with whom the Government are stuffing the Whitehall machine?

Mr. Kilfoyle

We shall follow exactly the usual procedures in publishing the range within which those individuals are employed and paid.