§ 27. Mr. Brandreth
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how the introduction of performance tables in public services are helping to improve service standards.
§ Mr. Brandreth
In warmly welcoming that concise reply, may I also welcome to the Dispatch Box my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary? What a magnificent team. May I also bring them best wishes from the Cheshire registration service which today was awarded a chartermark for the excellence of its service? 19 Does my right hon. Friend have plans to further extend the use of performance tables given the excellent results so far?
§ Mr. Hunt
First, may I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Cheshire county council registration service? I had not realised until I met the officials involved—Roger Manley and his team—that Cheshire was the first registration service in the country to offer couples the opportunity of register office marriages on Saturday afternoons. The team responds very warmly to customers' suggestions and is a very good example of the 98 winners of chartermarks that we have been able to announce today from 120 commendations, more than 500 applications and 20,000 expressions of interest. I congratulate all those involved.
With regard to performance league tables, the first national tables on the performance of hospitals and ambulance authorities were published in June. The revised passengers charter will be published early next year with comparative information on the performance of railway routes. We will also be publishing next year the first national tables on the performance of local authorities, including the police. The programme does gather strength.
§ Mr. Garrett
Why does not the biggest spending agency—the social security Benefits Agency—have the take up of benefit as a performance indicator?
§ Mr. Hunt
From my time as Secretary of State for Employment, I recall that that is a target for those working in jobcentres administering unemployment benefit which is a social security benefit. It is a target. As I understand it, benefits agencies have as a target that they give people the right information on take up. With my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Social Security and for Employment I am happy to look at ways in which we, with the chief executives concerned, can give an even better service. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the quality of service is better than ever before.