HC Deb 01 April 1998 vol 309 c1243
4. Dr. Desmond Turner

If he will make a statement on the future of the charter programme. [35804]

Mr. Kilfoyle

The Government are committed to making real improvements to all aspects of public services and as part of that, we intend to relaunch the citizens charter programme. I shall provide full details on the shape of the new programme and how we plan to take it forward when it is relaunched later in the year as part of the wider better government initiative.

Dr. Turner

I thank my hon. Friend for his commitment to renewing the charter after the disrepute into which it fell under the previous Government, when it was left with about as much respect as the cones hotline. Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way in which to ensure that the charter systems meet the real needs of the public is to ensure that standards of service are met? Can he tell the House what proposals he has to ensure that?

Mr. Kilfoyle

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important to ensure that standards are met. To that end, we have established the people's panel, to find out what the scientific view is of the quality of service that is being delivered. The charter mark, which is going from strength to strength, shows a marked correlation between better standards of service delivery and whether or not organisations obtain the charter mark.

Mr. Beggs

In seeking to achieve higher standards, has the Minister considered whether there would be benefit in providing incentives to civil servants for coming up with suggestions for savings in the public service?

Mr. Kilfoyle

The hon. Gentleman made available to me information about such schemes that proliferate in America. I made myself aware of similar schemes available in the United Kingdom, including one in the Ministry of Defence, which is extremely successful. That information is being assessed and evaluated by the charter unit, with a view to possible inclusion in the charter programme to be launched later this year.