HC Deb 21 October 1998 vol 317 cc1267-8
9. Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

What progress he proposes to make in the next 12 months on the better government project. [54729]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Dr. Jack Cunningham)

The better government project is one of the Government's and my top priorities. We will publish a White Paper in the spring setting out proposals for modernising government and joining up public services, to secure effective decision making and services that work and respond to the people who need them.

Mr. Pike

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Can he give me an assurance that, in the discussions that are taking place between national and local government to ensure better co-operation between them, one of the primary objectives is that of replacing 18 years of confrontation and clampdown with co-operation, better government and better service for the people of this country?

Dr. Cunningham

Yes, Madam Speaker, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Local government remains a key partner in taking forward our preparations for the better government initiative. I can tell my hon. Friend and the House that the invest-to-save budget, announced in the document on modernising public services following the comprehensive spending review, run jointly by the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, is exciting considerable interest. A fund of £150 million over the next three years is available, and public sector organisations will bid for funds to develop projects that bring together two or more public service bodies to deliver services in an innovative and more efficient way. That is another of the many important vehicles for taking forward better government.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Can the Minister explain how it contributes to better government that, while the House was debating defence yesterday, the Prime Minister was briefing Philip Webster and other journalists about a major revision to defence policy with regard to Europe—a proposal about which the House heard nothing during the debate? Was that at worst unco-ordinated government, or was the Defence Secretary holding the House in contempt in the same way as the Prime Minister was?

Dr. Cunningham

No, it was neither of those. I am sure that the Prime Minister was not briefing Philip Webster, either.