HC Deb 29 March 1993 vol 222 cc15-6
27. Mr. Deva

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when the pilot Charterline telephone information service will be launched.

Mr. Waldegrave

In May 1993.

Mr. Deva

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that, by publishing information on the police, local authorities and the national health service on Charterline, he will augment and complement the publication of the key performance indicators that have been agreed already?

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree with my hon. Friend. It will be a practical step in making public services more accessible and comprehensible to their users. If the pilot scheme in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire is a success, we shall offer great benefit to people when we take it national in due course.

Mr. Fisher

When the Charterline opens, will it not take great pressure off the calls from the public asking whether they have the right to know? Will the Minister stop saying, "Yes, in principle, we support more open government but, no, we do not support legislation" and back the Right to Know Bill, which is before the House, and which has the wide support not only of my right hon. Friends and all Opposition parties but the media, the public and a growing number of his own Back Benchers? If we had the right to know, the Charterline, as it existed today, would be able to answer calls about why the Government have not given pit-by-pit information on pits that are marked for closure—information which would have meant that we had a better debate later this afternoon. Should not that be the way to take the pressure off Charterline?

Mr. Waldegrave

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity in getting his Bill, which is in Committee, mentioned on the Floor of the House. I understand that there are good debates going on in the Committee. He is right to link the charter campaign. with openness, but it is a sadness to many of us that, for example, when steps were taken on publishing more educational information, that did not get much of a welcome from the Labour party.