HC Deb 07 February 2002 vol 379 cc1022-3
10. Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

What steps she is taking to improve the co-ordination of her Department with the performance and innovation unit. [31409]

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Estelle Morris)

Officials and Ministers in our Department are in regular contact with the performance and innovation unit about its current and future work programme. When specific PIU projects relate to departmental policy, both Ministers and officials have close working relationships with the PIU. For example, the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (John Healey), who has responsibility for adult skills, was sponsor Minister for the recently published PIU report on adult skills.

Mr. Sheerman

My right hon. Friend will know that the Select Committee's job is to track the Executive and hold them to account. Can she help us to gain access to more information about what is happening in the PIU and in No. 10 generally, because increasingly we see decisions being made, influence being exercised and policy being formed in places that we have not been able to reach through the traditional Select Committee methods? Can my right hon. Friend help us, even by telling us in detail what education policy groups are meeting and working on those subjects in the PIU and through other avenues in No. 10?

Estelle Morris

With the greatest respect, if my hon. Friend is having difficulty securing information in his capacity as Chairman of the Education and Skills Committee, that is a matter for him, not for me. My Department has close working relationships with units, organisations and other Departments throughout Whitehall. At the end of the day, we are in the same Government and we follow the same policies, but I should make it absolutely clear that my Ministers and I take decisions on education and skills. Responsibility and accountability rest with us.