HC Deb 01 March 1994 vol 238 cc673-4W
Mr. Mans

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the departmental management of agencies.

Mr. Waldegrave

The efficiency unit report "Making the Most of Next Steps", published in May 1991, made a number of proposals to carry forward the development of executive agencies in government. The Government welcomed the report and the clear principles of delegation to agencies combined with strategic management by Departments on behalf of Ministers which it set out. Since then much progress has been made by increasing and clarifying the accountability of agency chief executives and the flexibilities and discretion available to them, the use of open competition for chief executive posts, and improved target setting procedures. The next steps reviews in 1991, 1992 and 1993 have reported on progress in implementation.

With a steadily increasing proportion of the civil service—now over 60 per cent.—working in executive agencies, the management of agencies and their working relationships with Ministers and Departments is increasingly important to the effective and efficient delivery of Government services. My Department, in consultation with the Treasury, therefore commissioned a study of these issues. The study was carried out by a French civil servant, Ms Sylvie Trosa, on secondment to the OPSS.

Ms Trosa was asked to examine the organisational arrangements in Departments for advising Ministers on the strategic management of agencies, the effectiveness of these arrangements, in particular in relation to the setting of key targets and monitoring agency performance and to consider whether there was duplication or overlap between departments and agencies.

The report concludes that, while next steps has made good progress, there is more to be done to ensure that maximum benefits are achieved from the delegated, clarified management arrangements that have been put in place. In addition to a full analysis of the current position, the report makes a number of detailed recommendations. I have asked the next steps project manager, in consultation with the Treasury, Departments and agencies, to consider Ms Trosa's findings and to prepare a detailed action plan for taking forward the report's recommendations.

I warmly welcome the contribution agencies have made to improved standards of public services under the citizens charter. They have also contributed to the Government's policy of increased openness, through the publication of framework documents, key targets, reports and accounts. The Government have also published regular next steps reviews, reporting on progress within individual agencies and across government as a whole. I am today placing in the Library of the House a copy of this latest study, which is a useful and challenging examination of an important aspect of the next steps programme.

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