HC Deb 10 June 1998 vol 313 cc1066-7
9. Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

What proposals he has to improve the delivery of Government services to the elderly. [43503]

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

Last week, we launched the better government for older people programme, which aims to improve public services for older people by better meeting their needs, listening to their views and encouraging and recognising their contribution.

Mr. Blizzard

I welcome the better government for elderly people project. When the 28 pilot schemes have been evaluated, will the best examples be rolled out nationwide?

Elderly people in my constituency complain from time to time that they have written to Government Departments and not received a reply. I have encouraged them to make their points through me, but I have sometimes had to wait up to three months for a reply, and then not received a reply signed by a Minister. Before I came to the House, the council that I led had to publish each year the percentage of replies that it had made within a certain period. Will my hon. Friend consider introducing league tables for Government Departments, so that they would reply within specified times?

Mr. Kilfoyle

The short answer to my hon. Friend's question about league tables is no, simply because we would not be comparing like with like. Nevertheless, we are publishing the material that has always been published on the efficiency of replies to hon. Members, and we shall shortly publish for the first time the figures for correspondence between the public and Government.

On the first part of my hon. Friend's question, it is true that we shall roll out the lessons to be learned from the 28 pilots. Before then, we are networking those 28 authorities with the other 36 authorities that wanted to be part of such an adventurous pilot scheme, but could not be. As the schemes roll out for the first two years, those authorities will also benefit from the good practice.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

If league tables are good enough for hospitals and schools, why are they not good enough for Government Departments? Following the excellent question from the hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard), will the Minister consider publishing the proportion of ministerial letters that hon. Members eventually get that are not signed by the Minister?

Mr. Kilfoyle

I recall crossing swords with the right hon. Gentleman in the past on the subject of league tables. He will recall that the argument always centred on whether they were meaningful comparisons. As I explained to my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard), one cannot compare unlike Departments with each other. The comparisons would not be valid.