§ Mr. David Davis
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her support for extending the purchaser-provider split. It is this concept, the identification of the needs and wishes of the customer and clarity about the role and responsibility of the contractor, which underpins all our public service reforms. My Department remains committed to building on the progress made in Government agencies, the national health service, our schools and local authorities, and it is delivering better results.
§ Mrs. Lait
Is my hon. Friend aware that left-of-centre commentators, including Professor John Stewart of the Municipal Journal of recent mention, have endorsed the purchaser-provider split as a means of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our public services? Does he agree that it is about time that the Labour party came off the fence and endorsed it, too?
§ Mr. Davis
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have not seen that entry in the Municipal Journal. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant), perhaps I sleep too well. The best example of such acceptance by thoughtful commentators of the left is by John Willman. Writing in the "Fabian Review" he identified three virtuous consequences of the purchaser-provider split. He said:First, it allows the purchaser … to become the advocate of the consumer rather than the defender of the producer … Second, it forces both sides to define the nature of the service and the quality standards which are to be provided. This locus 19 on standards and outcomes is essential if the quality of public services is to be improved … Third and most important, it allows the purchaser to buy in services from the private sector.20 I recommend that Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen learn from their colleagues.