Thirty-six charter marks were awarded. Winners were chosen from 296 applicants. They included schools, hospitals, police services, public utilities, Government agencies and local authority service departments.
The awards announced last month were only the first. I am certain that the contest will go from strength to strength next year.
What conclusion does the Chancellor draw from the fact that, of the thousands of public bodies eligible to apply for a charter mark award, only 296 did so? Does he agree that the standards of public service and competence displayed by his Government in recent weeks should mean that the Government will never qualify to receive a charter mark award?
On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, this was the first year of the award and earlier this year, as he will remember—perhaps without much pleasure—there was a general election, which took people's eyes off this contest. We have every reason to believe that there will be many more applicants next year. The winners, and those involved with the winners this year, all say that it is good for morale in their services, and they welcome the competition.
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Anglian Water and I am also happy that my regional water company, Wessex Water, was a winner as well. When I visited the company recently, it was clear that the award had been widely welcomed by those working in the company. The low levels of complaint that Anglian Water has received in the past year, together with its high standards and the way in which it has achieved its targets, is widely perceived in the region.
What happens if, after receiving a charter mark, a company goes bankrupt? Does it have to hand the award back? Does it bring it to the right hon. Gentleman? Is he aware that there is a danger, this year, that 10 or 15 per cent. of charter marks could be handed back to the Government from bankrupt firms? He will be swamped by them. What will he do when these firms tell him that they will have to throw 3,000 people out of work? Instead of playing about with charter marks, the Government should be ensuring that we have full employment. Instead of playing these kids' games, the Government should be getting people off the dole.
The hon. Member has found a good hook for the speech that perhaps he wanted to make at some stage this afternoon. Charter marks are for the public service. Whatever accusation may be made by Labour Members about the water companies, they are not very likely to go bankrupt.