HC Deb 12 June 1995 vol 261 cc492-3
26. Mr. Fabricant

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what changes of service have been monitored in the public services since the introduction of the charter mark. [26058]

Mr. Horam

There have been a large number of measurable improvements since the introduction of the charter mark. One charter mark winner that I visited recently, a housing benefits department, has increased customer satisfaction to 97 per cent., improved its productivity level and saved more than £2 million through improved fraud detection.

Mr. Fabricant

That is an encouraging answer. Is my hon. Friend aware that my constituents welcome the fact that when they telephone Government Departments, telephones are answered more quickly, they can find out the names of the people to whom they speak, and pamphlets are issued in English that they can understand? Does my hon. Friend agree that the constant carping and criticism from Labour Members implies that they have no desire to improve the standard of public services?

Mr. Horam

My hon. Friend is right. There has been a revolution in public services in terms of waiting times, politeness, openness and all those aspects, although I confess that we still have a little further to go in terms of plain English.

Mr. Winnick

Has the Minister given any consideration to having a negative charter mark for organisations which do not give any satisfaction? If so, what sort of negative charter mark should be given to the most discredited and unpopular Government since records began? Does the hon. Gentleman now regret joining the Tory party after so many years in the Labour party when his current party is going to lose the next election and he will certainly he out of a job?

Mr. Horam

I am delighted to be a member of an Administration who have the best economic performance that I can remember and who have improved public services beyond the imagination of the Opposition, rather than an Administration who let inflation rip and came to an end in the tragic farce of the winter of discontent.

Mr. Brandreth

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the growing popularity of the charter mark is shown by the fact that, last year, there were some 20,000 inquiries about it and some 500 firm applications? Is there scope for extending the charter mark system to organisations such as one in my constituency called the Blacon project, which is an outstanding community partnership between the local authority, the local community and the voluntary sector?

Mr. Horam

That is an interesting suggestion, which I shall consider.