HC Deb 06 November 1995 vol 265 cc595-6
36. Mr. Jessel

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what evidence he has of improved efficiency in agencies established under the next steps programme. [39722]

Mr. Horam

The best evidence of agency performance is in their individual annual reports. Overall, agencies achieved 80 per cent. of their targets in 1993–94, and we are working on the 1995 next steps review, which will for the first time show trend data on agencies' performance and the savings from their competing for quality programmes. Agencies are making a significant contribution to the £544 million savings identified through the Government's competing for quality programme.

Mr. Jessel

As Historic Royal Palaces is an agency in the programme, will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming last week's decision by Hampton Court palace to stop charging the £1.70 entrance fee to the newly restored privy gardens to local residents from Twickenham, Teddington, the Hamptons, Richmond, Kingston and Elmbridge? That decision is the result of three meetings that I was able to convene.

Mr. Horam

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think that a sensible compromise was reached in that particular case, which was not least due to his magnificent efforts over many months. Given my hon. Friend's interest in musical instruments, he will also have noticed that Hampton Court was used as the backdrop for the Purcell opera that was broadcast on BBC television on Saturday night.

Mr. Connarty

Surely the Parliamentary Secretary cannot be happy with the performance of one agency, the Child Support Agency. The latest report on it shows that in 25 per cent. of cases it failed to get things right, and everyone knows that in 100 per cent. of cases it causes massive distress.

Mr. Horam

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not get in on Social Security questions, which just preceded these. That would have been an appropriate question to ask then.