HC Deb 01 February 1995 vol 253 cc716-8W
Ms Janet Anderson

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many parliamentary questions she has referred to chief executives of next steps agencies in each year since 1992.

Mr. Sackville

Five parliamentary questions were referred to agency chief executives in the 1992–93 parliamentary Session. Two parliamentary questions were referred to chief executives in 1993–94 and so far in 1994–95 one parliamentary question has been referred.

Mr. Kaufman

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will set out for each of the next steps agencies in her Department, whether they have acquired their own headquarters buildings and, if so, at what purchase cost or annual rental; how many support staff they have required who were not required when their operations were within her Department; how many of them publish periodical journals and at what annual cost; how many have fleets of executive cars or single executive cars and at what annual cost; how many have specially designed logos and at what cost; how many have corporate clothing and at what cost; and what is the cost of specially designed and printed corporate stationery.

Mr. Sackville

There are four next steps agencies within the Department of Health:

  • Medicines Control Agency
  • Medical Devices Agency
  • National Health Service Estates
  • National Health Service Pensions Agency

I have asked the chief executive of each of them to reply to the right hon. Member in respect of their own agency.

Agencies operate within the framework of demanding quality standards and tight financial control of civil service running costs and other financial targets, set out in the White Paper "The Civil Service, Continuity and Change", Cm 2627. In the usual way their expenditure is subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Staff in agencies remain civil servants, but total civil service manpower in my Department has reduced at the same time as my Department's next steps agencies have established. Improvements in efficiency or effectiveness brought about by my Department's agencies are a matter of record.

Letter from A. F. Cowen to Mr. Gerald Kaufman, dated 26 January 1995: The Secretary of State for Health has asked me to reply to your question in so far as it relates to the NHS Pensions Agency. The NHS Superannuation Scheme became an Executive Agency of the Department of Health from 20 November 1992 and continued in it existing premises (Hesketh House) at Fleetwood which are leased via Property Holdings from the Co-operative Society. The acquisition of a separate Headquarters was not necessary. At launch the Agency had some 650 staff. It currently employs 494 whole-time equivalent staff which includes 4 staff recruited on contracts to support the Agency's development—the Chief Executive; a professionally qualified accountant; a human resources professional; and an information technology specialist. Our corporate objective is to secure a running cost reduction of 20 per cent. below the 1992–93 baseline whilst measurably improving our service to customers. We do not publish periodical journals, we are required to publish our statutory Annual Report and Accounts. With regard to vehicles, the Agency has continued to use the Private Use Scheme run by the Department of Social Security. There are currently six vehicles available to regular travellers. The annual stationery budget pre and post Agency status remains at £110,000 per annum. The Agency does not have a corporate clothing policy but on launch 22 messengerial staff were provided with replacement uniforms needed because of the nature of their work. This is a continuation of pre Agency practice.

Letter from Alan Kent to Mr. Gerald Kaufman, dated 26 January 1995: The Secretary of State for Health has asked me to reply to your recent question insofar as it relates to the Medical Devices Agency. The Medical Devices Agency was established in September 1994 with the primary purpose of protecting the public health and safeguarding the interests of patients and users by ensuring that medical devices meet appropriate standards of safety, quality and performance. The Agency remains in the same premises it occupied as the Medical Devices Directorate of the Department of Health. In May 1995 we will move to another building on the civil estate, sharing facilities with other staff of the Department of Health and making an estimated saving on Departmental budgets of about £4.5 million over the four years to 1998–99. The Agency employs the same number of support staff now as before its establishment. We have accommodated within existing resources work on personnel and finance services previously provided centrally by the Department. The Agency does not publish periodical journals and has neither executive cars nor corporate clothing. The Agency logo and stationery were designed together at a cost of just over £12,000. The extra cost of printing the stationery was just under £6,000. The new logo and stationery have improved our communication with manufacturers and users of medical devices and so contributed to the Agency's primary purpose of safeguarding public health.

Letter from Dr. K. H. Jones to Mr. Gerald Kaufman, dated 24 January 1995: The Secretary of State has asked me to respond to the points of detail in your Parliamentary Question with respect to Medicines Control Agency (MCA). You may be aware that the MCA has been fully funded by fees from the pharmaceutical industry since it became a Next Steps agency in July 1991. We have remained in our original accommodation on the civil estate. No additional support staff have been employed other than those required to handle functions conducted now by MCA that were previously the responsibility of the Department of Health or to service the Agency's growing workload from the pharmaceutical industry. We publish a bi-monthly newsletter, MAIL, which has been in publication since June 1973. The annual cost is £18,000 and, while it is supplied free of charge to all licence holders, a small annual fee is paid by subscribers who are not licence holders and who are not directly involved in regulatory affairs. The Agency also publishes, three or four times a year, "Current Problems", first produced in 1975, which is a newsletter to all doctors and pharmacists in the UK, updating them on issues in the field of drug safety. The cost of each bulletin is £55,000, the bulk of which relates to distribution costs. Like MAIL and all MCA activities, it is fully funded by fees from the pharmaceutical industry. The Agency has no executive cars or corporate clothing. Our logo was designed in-house by a member of staff at no additional cost and our stationery is of a similar weight and quality to that used by other parts of the Department of Health.

Letter from J. Locke to Mr. Gerald Kaufman, dated 27 January 1995: Further to the Secretary for States written answer to you on the 24th January 1995, I detail below the information requested: NHS Estates was established as a Next Steps Agency on the 1st April 1991. From that date until the 28th March 1993 its staff were mainly based in London using existing Department of Health accommodation. The notional cost of the accommodation was £1,617,000. From the 1st April 1993 the Agency moved to offices in Trevelyan Square Leeds for which the Agency pays a current annual rent of £370,000. Currently the Agency has 9 support staff who were not required when the Agency was part of the Department. These generally represent Finance and Personnel functions taken over from the Department. The total cost of services provided by the Department to the Agency has dropped from £999,000 in 1991–92 to £347,000 in 1994–95. We publish one periodical every quarter known as "Newslink", a review of the latest developments affecting the healthcare estate. In 1994–95 its production costs were £18,786. Prior to this the Department published "Health Service Estate", a more substantial and expensive publication, until April 1991. We do not provide a fleet of executive or individual cars. Providing they meet the normal Government usage criteria, our staff may apply for vehicles provided by the Department's transport section. The Agency has a logo that was designed in parallel with the NHS Management Executive logo, before it was established in 1991. The costs of producing the logo were paid by the Department. The only item of corporate clothing commissioned by the Agency was a bulk purchase of specially designed ties at a cost of £931. Our stationery incorporates the Agency logo and office address details to a similar specification and cost as the Department of Health. No extra costs are incurred by their inclusion. I hope this answer provides you with the information requested.

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