§ Dr. Wright
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will give details of the initiatives taken under the citizens charter programme to develop user consultation, representation and participation in public services.
§ Mr. Waldegrave
The citizens charter calls on all public services to consult their customers on a regular and systematic basis. Survey programmes are being carried out across the public sector, and many organisations recognise and consult groups who represent their customers. There are numerous initiatives nationally and locally. These includeCharter Mark Scheme: organisations that apply must demonstrate that they consult customers on a regular and systematic basis and take their views into account when service standards arc set or revised. Thirty-six awards were made in 1992.Inland Revenue: has conducted a major survey of taxpayers to find out views on their service and are also surveying employers. Inland Revenue is considering how to improve services in response to these results.Customs and Excise: work is in hand on two national surveys of travellers and VAT traders. Results of a qualitative survey of travellers carried out last year were used when redrafting the travellers charter.London Underground: customers are surveyed on a four-weekly basis on over 20 performances indicators, including the five key targets set out in the customer charter.Police: the results of a survey of public satisfaction with police services were published in December 1992. A number of police services also use local customer satisfaction surveys or questionnaires.National Health Service: the patients charter encourages all health authorities to seek the views of local people on local services in a variety of ways. In Scotland, an independent survey of NHS users was undertaken to measure progress towards the achievement of charter commitments and identity problems and priorities for further action. In Wales, health authorities regularly carry out consumer research through patient satisfaction surveys, focus groups and local consultations.Education: all school governing bodies arc required to have elected parental governors. Since 1986, school governors are required to produce an annual report for parents and hold annual parents' meetings where parents can pass resolutions concerning the school. The parents charter has extended these rights to require schools to provide parents with annual reports on children, including exam and test results.4WBenefits Agency: carries out an annual independent customer survey to ask customers what they think of services, and publishes the results; holds regular meetings with customer representative groups; and has received nearly 600 written submissions on its discussion paper "One Stop" about service delivery.Employment Service: conducts an independent national customer satisfaction survey, and has piloted local surveys.Under the Council Tenants Charter, tenants have the following rights to: be consulted on changes to the management of their homes; annual information on how the council has managed its housing stock; attend meetings of the housing committee and to see the records of its meetings; transfer to a new landlord, and increased opportunities to get involved in the management of estates, for example, through tenant management co-operatives. The Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Bill includes a right to manage for council tenants.United Kingdom Passport Agency: surveys customers by post and in person to find out their views and satisfaction levels. A consultative panel of users is planned for the future.Land Registry: users' customer views obtained from a programme of: meetings with user groups, surveys of regular customers, open days, visits and exhibitions to review targets to reflect customers' needs and wishes.