HC Deb 19 December 1990 vol 183 c180W
Mr. Hague

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has identified any candidates within his Department for agency status under the "next steps" initiative.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Following a detailed feasibility study, I have identified pensions branch within my Department, located in Darlington, as a candidate for agency status.

Agency status should enable pensions branch to operate with greater freedom and clearer responsibility towards specified targets and performance measures within an agreed framework of resources. It should increase the accountability of the managers within the branch and lead to improvements in the quality as well as the cost-effectiveness of the service provided to teachers and their employers.

I have set in hand the recruitment through open competition of a new head of pensions branch, who will be appointed as the chief executive designate.

A "next steps" unit has been set up within my Department to co-ordinate further work on the project, and the preparation of a draft agency document has been put in hand. If the final decision is that this part of my Department should become an agency, the aim would be to establish it not later than early 1992.