HC Deb 15 December 1998 vol 322 cc485-6W
Mr. Ben Chapman

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will make a statement about Public Bodies 1998 and the Executive NDPB 1998 report. [64385]

Mr. Kilfoyle

The Government have today published Public Bodies 1998, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House, and theExecutive NDPB 1998 Report (CM 4157) which has been laid before both Houses. Quangos: Opening the Doors, published on 29 June 1998, promised that future editions of both publications would develop in line with the Government's policy of making public bodies more efficient, transparent and accountable. Public Bodies 1998 and the Executive NDPB Report 1998 take important steps in that direction.

Public Bodies 1998 provides a range of statistical information on those national and regional public bodies for which Ministers retain a degree of responsibility. This includes all nationalised industries and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) as well as certain public corporations and NHS bodies. On 1 April 1998, there were 1,073 NDPBs, a reduction of 55 over the previous year. As of 1 September 1998, 32 per cent. of appointments to bodies listed in Public Bodies were held by women; and 3.7 per cent. were held by ethnic minorities. In line with the Government's commitment to increase substantially the information publicly available on these bodies, Public Bodies includes for the first time the terms of reference of each of the bodies listed, the names of individual chairmen and chief executives (or their equivalents) and e-mail and Internet addresses where these are available. Public Bodies 1998 provides more information than ever before in a single document about this sector of government.

The Executive NDPB 1998 Report brings together performance and trend data on 81 of the largest executive NDPBs each with expenditure of over £20 million in 1997–98. The contribution of NDPBs is important to achieving the policy goals of the Government and the results that people want. The individual entries covering annual performance measures and key business summary data show that some NDPBs are performing well both in terms of meeting stringent performance targets and delivering more efficient and effective services. However, there are no grounds for complacency. Too many of the bodies do not have adequate performance measures in place nor proper measures of efficiency. It is vital that these measures are put in place so that it is clear where success is being achieved and where there are problems to be resolved if we are to make the best use of taxpayers' money.

NDPBs, like other parts of government, have the opportunity to increase the impact of their work and contribute to improvements in the quality and convenience of public services by linking up with other public bodies and working across boundaries to match people's needs. This will be a key area for further development over the next few years, and the Better Government White Paper to be published in the Spring will have more to say about what has been achieved and possible ways forward.

The Public Bodies and the Executive NDPB 1998 Report will in future years continue to develop and widen in scope. The Government recognise the important roles performed by the bodies listed in these publications and are committed to ensuring that they, like other parts of the public service, play their full part in helping to achieve the high level policy objectives set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Public Service Agreements.

Both Public Bodies 1998 and the Executive NDPB 1998 Report are available on the Internet via the Cabinet Office home page (www.open.gov.uk/co/cohome.htm).