HC Deb 17 March 1999 vol 327 cc1110-1
7. Jacqui Smith (Redditch)

What proposals he has for future use of the people's panel. [75363]

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

My Department plans to use the people's panel to carry out two further waves of quantitative research this year. The panel is also used by other Departments for various quantitative and qualitative research.

Jacqui Smith

May I suggest that my hon. Friend ask the people's panel to consider the Government's Budget priorities? In particular, will he ask whether the panel would rather see the doubling of support for children, or the freezing of child benefit—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—whether the panel would rather see £100 support for fuel payments for all pensioner households, or an increase on VAT on fuel—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and whether the panel believes that £40 billion extra spending on schools and hospitals is important, or reckless spending, as the Opposition believe?

Mr. Kilfoyle

Although I admire the motivation behind my hon. Friend's question, the answer comes via the popular acclamation for the points that she raised.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

After that cringingly nauseating question, may I ask whether the people's panel is the same as the citizens' panel, which sounds like an instrument of the French revolution? How much does it cost, how is it recruited and what are its three greatest achievements to date?

Mr. Kilfoyle

We have before us an expert in cringe. The panel, in itself, will not create something remarkable overnight, but it is a serious enterprise. Conservative Members should give credit to the fact that we are making sure that what people think—rather than what the top-down politicians think—is taken into account when the policy is formed. For the first time, we have evidence-based policy making that reflects what people want—not what politicians and civil servants think that they might want.

Sir Patrick Cormack

And what does it cost?

Mr. Kilfoyle

It costs, in net terms, very little to the taxpayer.

Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

My hon. Friend will recall that, when the panel was established, it was agreed that all the research would be published, as has been done. Will he consider making more of the raw research available more quickly, which would certainly be more helpful to the Opposition in deciding what their policy should be?

Mr. Kilfoyle

We will certainly consider how to make more information available.

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