HC Deb 21 April 1999 vol 329 cc894-5
6. Jacqui Smith (Redditch)

What plans he has to promote one-stop shops for Government services. [80297]

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

The "Modernising Government" White Paper, launched on 30 March, contains a number of initiatives to encourage joint working between central and local government, including one-stop shops. There will be a drive to eliminate obstacles to joined-up working, including a more co-ordinated approach to property management, and a second round of the invest-to-save budget to fund new projects that involve partnership working.

Jacqui Smith

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, especially the emphasis on co-ordination between central and local government. Can he assure me that central Government will be willing to learn from best practice in local authorities, such as that undertaken by Redditch borough council, which is setting up a one-stop shop and working with local partners such as the county council. the police, the citizens advice bureau and the Employment Service? The council is also incorporating automatic information systems to deal with local people's inquiries in one visit. Will central Government be willing to undertake the necessary investment in technology to enable local people to access central Government services and information in the Redditch one-stop shop?

Mr. Kilfoyle

We recognise that service delivery is undertaken as much by local authorities as by national Government Departments or their agencies. To that end, we are working closely with the local authorities which have been part of the process of devising the White Paper from the outset. I recently launched the infoshop pilots, which are being tested in 16 different local authorities. They perform the functions that my hon. Friend would like to see in local authorities throughout the land. That is the subject of the White Paper.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

What are the Government doing towards employing information technology—which can make one-stop shops a reality—to join up the various services? Has the Minister ever pretended to be an ordinary member of the public and telephoned his Department to get information? An audit exercise such as that would help him to assess how easy it is to get information from his Department.

Mr. Kilfoyle

Yes, we audit how effective the Cabinet Office is in responding to people's inquiries, regardless of whether they are Members of Parliament or members of the public. The White Paper "Modernising Government" contained a technology component, and we have taken two important and basic steps towards its implementation. For the first time, we have looked towards establishing an information technology strategy for the whole of Government. We have also insisted that a senior person of board level in each Department be appointed to drive through the implementation of new technology and to monitor its effect on the delivery of services.