HC Deb 21 October 1998 vol 317 cc1263-4
3. Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

How he monitors (a) the effectiveness and (b) the consistency of citizens charters across Government. [54716]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle)

To support the launch of the new service first programme, we have made available to all public services comprehensive advice on how to draw up effective charters that best meet the needs of users. We have also created a new team in the service first unit to audit the quality and effectiveness of selected national and local charters. Those new initiatives reflect the Government's commitment to first-class, responsive public services.

Mr. Winterton

I am sure that the Minister accepts that the concept and implementation of the citizens charter were the result of actions taken by the previous Government. Will he also accept that efficiency and all that goes with it will be achieved in the public sector only through the greater involvement of the private sector? Will he turn his attention to the winter fuel payments to pensioners by the Department of Social Security, so that last year's chaos is not repeated this year and so that my excellent pensioners in Macclesfield enjoy a better and more reliable service?

Mr. Kilfoyle

May I correct the hon. Gentleman's inadvertent misrepresentation? The notion of the citizens charter came from Labour local authorities—specifically York and Nottingham—but we did not mind the previous Government stealing a good idea. His question about winter payments to pensioners should be raised with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security.