Does the Minister agree that the service to the public in both the passport office and the Department of Social Security might be improved by employing more civil servants? If more civil servants had been employed, many of the problems in the passport office this summer would not have existed. If there were more civil servants in the Department of Social Security, rather than simply having to administer, they could give welfare advice to claimants who need the benefits that they are not getting at the moment.
I am glad, of course, that an agreement has now been reached in the passport office and, as the hon. Gentleman probably knows, it will lead to an increase in the number of civil servants there. With regard to the passport office and to the Department of Social Security, I come back to the establishment of agencies for which clear performance targets and objectives can be set, including objectives on the quality of service to the public. The House will have noted that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury made an admirable speech last week, drawing attention to the importance of the quality of Government services to the public.
In view of the considerable success of the agencies, especially in respect to the motivation of those who work for them, will my right hon. Friend confirm that he intends to press ahead with the agencies as quickly as possible and across the board?
I can say without hesitation that that is the case. The fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security announced last month his plan to establish an agency for the Department of Social Security, which includes 87,000 civil servants, is an indication of the importance that we attach to this reform.