HC Deb 17 December 1997 vol 303 cc314-5
4. Mr. Bayley

If he will make a statement about the most recent recipients of charter mark awards. [19603]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle)

This has been a very successful year for the charter mark awards scheme, with 365 awards being made—the highest number ever. There were record numbers of applications from virtually all types of public service, including a successful one from the Benefits Agency in York and the North Yorkshire guidance service, which serves York. York is, of course, the original home of the citizens charter idea.

The charter mark is making a real contribution to improving public services and we intend to build on that success by developing it and making it more effective.

Mr. Bayley

I thank my hon. Friend for his recognition of the fact that it was a Labour city council that invented the citizens charter. Will he join me in paying tribute to the staff of the Benefits Agency office in York who won a charter mark? Does he agree that staff in Benefits Agency offices are under a lot of pressure, because when people are poor and without money they get desperate and pushy in those offices? If staff at a Benefits Agency office have won an award for excellence in public service for dealing sympathetically and well with people in such circumstances, they deserve praise. Does my hon. Friend agree that their excellent standards deserve to be spread throughout the Benefits Agency so that all people in need get the service that they deserve?

Mr. Kilfoyle

My hon. Friend will be aware that a successful charter mark award ceremony held a fortnight ago last Monday was attended by nearly 100 Members and represented a recognition of the real achievements of those at the sharp end. That is why we are trying to cater for a charter programme that works according to a bottom-up approach to public services rather than opting for the policy of the Conservatives, who tried to impose their will on those who had the extremely difficult job of delivering services in difficult circumstances.