Citizens Charter

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th May 1992.

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Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham 12:00 am, 18th May 1992

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the implementation of the citizens charter.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 6 May, the citizens charter will be at the centre of the Government's decision-making throughout the 1990s.

The Prime Minister is meeting ministerial colleagues and their permanent secretaries on 19 June to take stock of progress and to discuss further developments.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on becoming responsible for the implementation of the citizens charter from his position in the Cabinet. In the months ahead, will he ensure that, on the introduction of the charter mark, the very highest standards are set for it and that awards will be made exclusively on that basis?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I can confirm that. As the hon. Member for York (Mr. Bayley) pointed out, it is right for failings to be identified where they occur, but it is also right for outstandingly good performance to be recognised and rewarded. That principle will lie behind the charter mark.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

If the citizens charter represents a right to know, will the Chancellor of the Duchy explain why documents that have remained classified for so long—I refer to the documents concerning the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands—have not been put into the public domain? When I raised the issue with the Prime Minister in the House, he said that it was a matter for the right hon. Gentleman. May we know when he will make a policy decision? There is a good deal of information in the documents about which the public should undoubtedly know.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

As I believe I have told the hon. Gentleman before in the House, we are looking across the board at a range of areas in which there can be more openness. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make an announcement tomorrow about the publication of the membership of Cabinet committees and the guidance to Ministers, and documents concerning those matters will be available in the House tomorrow. None the less, the hon. Gentleman has raised an important matter. I shall look at it again and write to him.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to his new duties. While he is carrying out his duty to increase standards of public service, will he take great care to talk to the chairmen of the nationalised industries and his Government colleagues in order to ensure that such ridiculous anomalies as, for example, are to be found in British Rail's charter—whereby some lines, including that to Southend, are treated far worse than others—are made a target for the Government and removed over the next few years?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

My right hon. Friend's point is right. It is right to specify targets openly. Where they are found to be inadequate, that is only the first stage. One then has to improve them. This open and measurable approach is designed not just for the production of charters but for the provision of better services: to provide motivation both for the public and for the management of the services concerned to drive up standards.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham

Will the Chancellor of the Duchy confirm that the citizens charter will ensure that when any citizen goes to, for example, the Department of Employment or the Department of Social Security for grants, allowances or benefits he or she will he given advice at the same time about all the other grants and benefits to which he or she may be entitled? If the right hon. Gentleman cannot assure the House that that will happen, the citizens charter will remain so many empty words.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

Some of the improvements that have been made by the Benefits Agency and others have been welcomed on both sides of the House. However, the hon. Gentleman is right. The service provided to people when, in many cases, they are at their most vulnerable must be both friendly and courteous and give them the full information that they need.