HC Deb 04 July 1994 vol 246 cc18-9
34. Mr. Llwyd

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many charters there are currently; what plans there are to increase that number; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Davis

Some 39 charters have been published under the citizens charter. New charters covering further and higher education in Northern Ireland and London Buses will be published later this year. We revised three of the existing charters in the past month, and we plan to revise six more by the end of September.

Mr. Llwyd

Given the current position in the farming industry throughout the United Kingdom, particularly Wales, where many tens of thousands of farmers have their premiums and support payments paid nine and 10 months late, will the Minister agree to have a word with his right hon. and hon. Friends in other Departments to see whether there is a case for a farmers charter?

Mr. Davis

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's interest in the subject. He will find that the agriculture department of the Welsh Office is to publish a charter statement later this year. That statement will include subjects such as the administrative turn round on applications for grants and the handling of those grants. I think that that should meet the hon. Gentleman's worries.

Mr. Rowe

Does my hon. Friend agree that the majority of work on charters is done behind the scenes? Does he agree that the raising of standards is often achieved by boards meeting to ensure that they comply with the charters? Will he commend the Kent fire brigade and Kent police for winning charter marks and for their tremendous efforts in trying to persuade other public services to do the same?

Mr. Davis

I commend my hon. Friend for securing his question earlier than it appears on the Order Paper. He is absolutely right: the people who make the charters work are the public servants who deliver the public service in this country today. He is fortunate in that Kent has at least six charter mark winners who do a good job, not only in improving their own public service, but in running a charter network that enables other people to copy best practice and devise best practices for their own parts of the public service. Kent is an extremely good example for the rest of the country.

Mr. Winnick

There should be a new charter mark for particular excellence given to the Bishop of Birmingham for his excellent remarks yesterday about the way in which the health service is being constantly undermined. Would not it be appropriate for the Minister in charge of charters to write to the Bishop of Birmingham to congratulate him on the manner in which he stood up for, and spoke in defence of, the health service which, as he said, is being constantly undermined by the Government?

Mr. Davis

I should be delighted to hear from the said bishop about what he has to say to the 1 million extra patients who have been treated in the health service since the reforms. I should also like to hear what he has to say to the 40,000 people who were waiting more than two years for an operation before the reforms. That figure is now down to fewer than a few hundred. I should be interested to hear what the bishop has to say about that.