HL Deb 14 October 1991 vol 531 cc937-9

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the estimated cost of publishing and distributing The Citizen's Charter, including administration, advertising and public relations.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, the final costs are not yet available, but the estimated cost is likely to be in the order of £916,000.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. But is he aware of the grave anxiety of the 600 consultants who signed the advertisement and who were supported by many doctors? Is he further aware that they have the support of all the royal colleges and that great compassionate organisation, the Health Visitors' Association? Indeed, there are reports that senior government health experts also believe that within three years the hospital trusts will be private. Does the Minister accept what has been said or does he deny it all?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the noble Lord appears to be confused about the Question being asked. The Question that I have answered relates to the cost of publishing and distributing The Citizen's Charter and has nothing whatever to do with the National Health Service.

Baroness Platt of Writtle

My Lords, in publicising The Citizen's Charter, of which I am in favour, will the Government also publicise the other side of the coin— the need for the citizens of this country to exercise their duties and responsibilities in their work and one to another in order for the charter to be a success, as I hope it will be?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for asking that question. She is quite right.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the cost does not matter; the essential issue is whether it is worth it?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is worth it.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, can we be assured that the Citizen's Charter will work, in particular among Ministers and civil servants? Is the Minister aware that in July I tabled two Questions to which I have not yet received an answer? Perhaps this House needs a citizen's charter.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that is a different question to the one on the Order Paper. I am sure that if the noble Lord contacts the Minister responsible for answering his questions he will receive a satisfactory reply.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the Minister agree that any citizen's charter will be looked on by the mass of ordinary people as useless unless there is a guarantee that our National Health Service will always remain free at the point of requirement?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that may well be the case and certainly the Government have made clear the status of the National Health Service. However, that question has nothing whatever to do with the one on the Order Paper, which relates to the costs of producing the document.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I must first apologise because I can no longer remember what The Citizen's Charter is. Can the Minister tell the House in broad terms what it covers and what the £1 million is paying for that anyone would like to have?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, if the noble Lord does not have a copy of The Citizen's Charter I shall be most happy to ensure that he receives one. It contains numerous proposals for better service to the public in many areas. In addition it proposes some legislative changes.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, does not the last question indicate how sensible it is of Her Majesty's Government to make known to the public, including members of the public who can read it, what the proposal is?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, my noble friend is right. The situation is slightly unfortunate in that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, can obtain a copy of The Citizen's Charter free of charge while a member of the general public will have to pay up to £8.50.

Lord Peston

My Lords, the noble Lord must have misunderstood. I did not say that I do not have a copy of the charter, nor did I say that I have not read it. But having looked at the document I am still trying to discover precisely what it does for me as a citizen. Will the Minister tell me whether it has any substantial content?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, of course it has. If the noble Lord cares to read it again he will find many substantial contributions.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, in view of government policy will the Minister tell the House whether the work was put out to tender in order to reduce the cost of £1 million?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, there are various aspects of the cost which I outlined in my original Answer. For example, media space was bought at an overall discount rate of 50 per cent., which shows how well we did in that area.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is it not the case that during the 12 years of Conservative government the standard of public services has declined sharply? Is the Minister aware that £900,000 will not tackle the problem? Will he explain the policies of the Government designed to raise the standard of public services? If such standards do not rise, the Citizen's Charter will be nothing more than a gimmick.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the Citizen's Charter is not a gimmick. I do not accept the noble Lord's comment that public services have declined during the past 12 years. Furthermore, the proposals within the Citizen's Charter are designed to improve public services. The noble Lord should not confuse the cost of producing the documents involved, which is the figure that I quoted, with the cost of the implementation of the charter.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, is it not time that the silly season came to an end?

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