HC Deb 01 May 1995 vol 259 cc15-6
30. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans he has to introduce further charters; and if he will make a statement. [20150]

Mr. Horam

New charters for further and higher education in Northern Ireland will be published later this year, as well as revised charters for council tenants and court users. A revised contributors charter for national insurance payers was published last week.

Mr. Greenway

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he confirm that British Gas has been put on probation for a year in relation to its charter mark—it could be taken away if it does not improve—and that that is an excellent use of charter marks? Will he further confirm that, despite its endless hollow boasting, the Labour party will never qualify for a charter mark?

Mr. Horam

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and he is particularly right in the light of the press releases that Labour has released today on consumers. The point about charter marks is that they are designed to be the Oscars of public service, and a mark of quality for someone who is doing well. It does not matter whether we are talking about British Gas or a local library—if it does not live up to its promises, it should have its charter mark removed. British Gas has another nine months to come up to the mark. If it does not do so, we will take its mark away.

Mr. Henderson

Does the Minister accept that if bosses of utilities such as British Gas cannot self-regulate their snouts out of the trough, someone else must protect the public interest? Does he further agree that there is a need to revise the legislation that governs the powers of the regulator in gas and in other utilities so that the regulator can intervene where bosses fail to meet acceptable public standards in pay and conditions, which may be true of British Gas?

Mr. Horam

The Labour party would wrap everything up in more regulation and red tape. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to be aware that this matter is being considered by the Greenbury committee. Members on both sides of the House would wish to support the purpose of charter marks, which is to improve the quality of public services. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy said with regard to privatisation, the Government are ahead of every other Government in the world in improving public service.