HC Deb 11 March 1991 vol 187 cc668-9
42. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement about progress with the "next steps" initiative.

Mr. Renton

This initiative continues to go well. Last month I addressed the first conference of agency chief executives. I was very heartened by what they were able to tell me about the progress being made in their agencies to secure better value for money and quality of service.

Mr. Marshall

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, which confirmed that the "next steps" initiative would lead to greater efficiency and a more responsive service. Does he agree that, despite what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said, there has been a massive improvement in morale in the agencies?

Mr. Renton

I agree with my hon. Friend. The exciting thing about the initiative is that it is only just starting. At present, there are fewer than 100,000 civil servants in the executive agencies and we hope that the number will increase by the end of the year by close to 200,000. The eventual aim will be to have perhaps three quarters of civil servants in executive agencies. Their dedication will lead to better financial performance, to management by objective and to giving better service to the customer.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

May we have an assurance that when accounting officers appear before the Public Accounts Committee to deal with the "next steps" initiative and privatisation, they will bring with them the very civil servants who were responsible for administering the changes in the Department in those two respects? Will the actual officials involved come before the Committee?

Mr. Renton

The hon. Gentleman will have to be more specific about what he has in mind. Civil servants appearing before the Public Accounts Committee will always be willing and anxious to be as helpful as possible, but they cannot know in advance the precise range of questions that will be directed at them. In fairness, the Committee cannot have a huge quantity of civil servants appearing before it.