I thank the Minister for that response. Does he agree that the patients charter is now regarded by most people as nothing short of a sick joke, given that waiting lists are rising again and cuts in expenditure on the health service mean that services are being denied and cut despite the glossy promises in what is now a sham and a pointless, useless waste of time?
I think that the hon. Lady is ill informed in speaking of cuts in spending on the national health service. Half the people who are given appointments in the NHS are seen within five weeks, the two-year maximum waiting list has been imposed since April and the 18-month waiting list will be reduced for hip, knee and cataract operations from April 1993. Substantial progress is being made in the health service under the citizens charter.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm my clear impression that the most valuable feature of what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has published to date has been that management at all levels have come together to discuss and work out ways in which their services can be made much more responsive to the public and that, for example, recent publication of the charter by the Kent police has been very widely welcomed within Kent and is serving as a model for forces elsewhere?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. My right hon. Friend was able to visit the police in Kent very recently and see them at first hand. My hon. Friend is right to draw a connection between the charter and better management in public services. The charter is not simply a matter of pious aspirations, as the Opposition seem to think. It is rooted in the whole development of thinking about how to organise great organisations such as the public sector. What we are introducing across the board is management by contract. Management by contract implies management by standards, and management by standards expresses and underpins what has been done through the citizens charter.
As the Royal Cornwall hospitals trust in Cornwall was the latest to announce ward cuts and closures as a result of financial difficulties, will the Minister confirm weekend press reports that he and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are about to concede that the health charter and the rail charter failed to meet their targets?
The hon. Gentleman is entirely misinformed. Our objective with the charters is that standards should be realistic, that they should be demanding and that they should be reviewed with a view to improving them and extending them to make them more demanding.