HL Deb 18 May 2004 vol 661 cc642-4

2.51 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have identified a suitable person to fill the post of Director of Business Change and Delivery in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister; what the postholder's duties will be; and how much the postholder will be paid.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker)

My Lords, not yet. This is a director post designed to drive forward the office's challenging delivery agenda of creating sustainable communities. The advertised salary is up to £100,000 per annum. The main responsibilities include improving the office's programme and project management systems, strategic information technology and driving forward the office's change programme, called "Excellence in Delivery".

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I suppose I ought to be grateful to the noble Lord for his Answer, but he has not done much to unravel the mystery of what this extraordinary person will do. I should be grateful if the Government could confirm that what they are looking for is a, Graduate calibre change manager with a track record of measurable positive impact in a complex environment of multiple stakeholders". I do not think that I could find an adequate comment on that. Does the noble Lord share my anxiety that this genius, if he were ever discovered, would be in severe danger of getting totally lost in the bureaucratic sprawl of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister?

Lord Rooker

My Lords, first, it may be a "she" and not a "he". Secondly, given that the noble Lord quoted from the job advertisement, on which presumably he based the Question, he will understand that the closing date for applications was yesterday. It is a Civil Service appointment, not a ministerial one. It will go through the normal process of the Civil Service Commission and the appointee will be part of the management team. It is not blowing up the management team; indeed, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's executive board has been reduced from 10 to eight members.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that from the specification read out it sounds as though the ideal man to apply for the job would be the Deputy Prime Minister?

Lord Rooker

My Lords, I will not be tempted into commenting on a question about my right honourable friend. As I said, this is a Civil Service appointment to be dealt with by the Civil Service Commission and the Permanent Secretary, not the Deputy Prime Minister or the humble Ministers in the department. We have a programme of change in the department. The budget is £7 billion. We are trying to deliver economically at £22 billion a Sustainable Communities programme. It cannot be done on a shoestring and it needs quality people. There have been major changes in the management of the department at the top level; this is part of those changes. I do not see a problem in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, puts it.

Lord McNally

My Lords, is not the problem at the heart of the question that the Deputy Prime Minister himself is like one of the Easter Island obelisks —nobody knows how he got there and nobody knows what he is really for? Why not abolish this sprawling department, which is really tailor-made for his ego and not for good governance, and separate it back to a Cabinet Office and to the departments responsible?

Lord Rooker

My Lords, I find some of that personally offensive. It happens to be the name of the ministry. The Deputy Prime Minister is the first Secretary of State. It is the ministry of housing, local government, planning, homelessness and the fire service. It is a fully fledged department of state; it just happens to be called the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

My Lords, if the Government succeed in finding somebody courageous enough and ambitious enough to fill the job, how will they prevent him being nicked by No. 10, where the need is even greater?

Lord Rooker

My Lords, because the job of delivering the Sustainable Communities programme is much more interesting than working in No. 10.

Baroness Hanham

My Lords, the post will raise the number of staff members in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. How is the department responding to the Chancellor's commitment to reduce the number of civil servants in each department? Will such a review of staff include those from the government offices?

Lord Rooker

Certainly, my Lords. We will definitely meet the Chancellor's target of a 2.5 per cent real terms efficiency gain in each year of the spending review. There is no problem about that. Fifty-eight per cent of the department's staff are outside London: 9 per cent of headquarters staff and 90 per cent in the government offices, which are shared with other departments; 100 per cent of the Planning Inspectorate is outside London, as is 100 per cent of the Fire Service College. We are fully consistent with our commitment under the Lyons review to move a further proportion of central staff outside London, although there are not many to move out.