HC Deb 09 January 2001 vol 360 c484W
Mr. Caplin

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on "Public Bodies 2000". [144847]

Mr. Stringer

"Public Bodies 2000" is the latest in a series of annual reports on the size, spend and membership of the UK "quango" sector. I am pleased to report that "Public Bodies 2000" was published on 4 January and that copies are available from the Vote Office. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of the House.

This Government are committed to keeping the number of "quangos" (or non-departmental public bodies) to a minimum. I am, therefore, pleased to report that there are now fewer "quangos" in the UK than at any other time over the past 20 years. The latest figure of 1,035 means that numbers have fallen by around 10 per cent. since 1997. Those "quangos" which remain, such as the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and the Parole Board, continue to carry out a range of important and essential public services.

The Government are determined to ensure that all "quangos" are open and accountable. To this end, responsibility for hundreds of public bodies has now been transferred to the new, democratically elected bodies in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and London. Furthermore, our new Freedom of Information Act 2000 will introduce a statutory right of access to a wide range of information held by all public bodies.

As a Government, we are committed to increasing the representation of under-represented groups. I am, therefore, pleased to note that "Public Bodies 2000" reports an increase in the proportion of women and members of the ethnic minorities serving on the boards of public bodies compared with 1997. In total, there are around 30,000 men and women serving on the boards of the public bodies. They bring a wealth of skills and experience into the running of public bodies and we are grateful for their continued involvement and enthusiasm.