HC Deb 03 July 1995 vol 263 cc17-21
34. Mr. John Evans

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans he has to introduce further citizens charters during 1995; and if he will make a statement. [30154]

Mr. Horam

A number of new and revised charters have been issued this year. We are also encouraging the production of local charters. Thousands of organisations, including surgeries, hospitals and police forces, have already produced their own charters which reflect the needs of the local user.

Mr. Evans

Can the Minister confirm that citizens charters were originally introduced to give the voters more power over politicians and bureaucrats? Does he recognise that the unseemly battle taking place among 329 Conservative Members of Parliament to elect the next Prime Minister is a negation of all those charters' principles? Why does he not recognise that the people do not want any more charters but a general election now?

Mr. Horam

I am afraid that there are no charters that apply to activities inside the House; perhaps there should be.

Mr. Fabricant

If people do not recognise that charters are achieving something, why is it that the French, Germans and Americans are starting to copy our system? Why is it that the only people who knock the system are the Opposition? They do so only because they did not think of it first.

Mr. Horam

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. One of the first things that President Chirac did on taking office was to introduce a citizens charter. Well done, President Chirac.

Mr. Winnick

Is not there a case for introducing charters for political and personal courage? If so, does the Minister agree that the ex-Secretary of State for Wales would receive that charter for having the guts to resign from the Cabinet in order to stand for the current leadership ballot? The President of the Board of Trade and the Employment Secretary, though they are desperate for the job at No. 10, simply do not have the guts to do what the right hon. Gentleman did.

Mr. Horam

I doubt whether that will influence many votes in that particular election.

35. Mr. Mark Robinson

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by what mechanisms the Government measure the success of the citizens charters. [30155]

Mr. David Hunt


Mr. Robinson

I thank my right hon. Friend for his splendid answer. Does he agree that one measure of success is the fact that there are more than 2,000 nominations for the charter mark currently in the pipeline, and which he is considering, supported by more than 4,000 individuals?

Mr. Hunt

Yes. We were expecting 2,000 nominations, so to achieve double that number has been a great success, bearing in mind the fact that in 1992, 296 organisations were nominated; in 1993, 441 and in 1994, 523.

Mr. Barnes

There is a charter that could be measured easily, and which would follow the greatest charter to be introduced, the initial set of charters introduced by the Chartists to extend the franchise. Why can we not have such a charter to deal with the current franchise, because between 3 million and 4 million names are missing from the electoral register? If we put that right there would be an easy way to measure our success, because the more people on the electoral register, the more that register would be judged a success by that particular charter.

Mr. Hunt

That is why we strongly support all campaigns to urge people to register for voting and exercise that vote.

As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said, many other countries across the world are following the Prime Minister's initiative of introducing a citizens charter. In May I was discussing this initiative with Vice-President Gore, who has already hailed it as an innovative idea.

Dr. Spink

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the measures of success of the charters is national health service waiting times? Does he accept that, since the introduction of the patients charter in 1991, those waiting times have been dramatically reduced? Before he answers, will he bear it in mind that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has just joined him on the Front Bench?

Mr. Hunt

I commend my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and, indeed, the activities of the Welsh Office in Wales, in constantly taking forward the initiatives under the patients charter. I am delighted that, since the publication of the patients charter, there has been a dramatic reduction in NHS waiting times.

36. Mr. Foulkes

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many charters currently exist; and what plans he has to extend them into other areas. [30156]

Mr. Horam

There are currently 40 charters. New and revised charters are being introduced during the course of this year, and also many local charters.

Mr. Foulkes

Does not the Minister realise that when I was sitting, fuming, in a traffic jam the other day I realised that by far the greatest of the Prime Minister's achievements was not the charters, but the cones hotline? How much has the cones hotline cost? How many phone calls have there been to it? What great, new initiative will replace, challenge and equal the cones hotline if the Prime Minister is returned in the ballot tomorrow?

Mr. Horam

In tune with his forceful presentation of the subject, the hon. Gentleman should take a positive view of charters, not carp on about the minor, negative aspects.