Government Services Online

Cabinet Office and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 2016.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood 12:00 am, 14th December 2016

What steps the Government are taking to improve the accessibility of Government services online.

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

In our manifesto we committed to ensuring that digital assistance is always available to those not online in the delivery of online Government services. All services will have a means of access for those not able to use the online service.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood

I am encouraged by my right hon. Friend’s answer. He rightly continues to improve access to Government services online; will he ensure that that is done in a way that avoids excluding or disadvantaging those who, for whatever reason, are unable to access such services?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

I am able to give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We have travelled a great distance in the past six years, and access to online services is immeasurably better now than back in 2010. But we want to make sure that everyone is able to gain access to Government services and will provide alternative routes to them if they cannot do so online.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

The Minister will know that online access has to be of the highest quality. The experience of some Departments has not been very reassuring. There are very talented people on the autism spectrum who are very good at this; will the Minister look at recruiting many of them to help make online services better?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

The hon. Gentleman is right to point to former failures of accessibility in online services; direct.gov.uk was appalling for accessibility. We now make sure that all services are accessible by design, but I will repeat his comments to the Government Digital Service for its interest.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

How is progress on the Minister’s excellent Verify system proceeding?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

It is proceeding well, but not well enough, and I want it to be faster.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

When I look online, I find it is almost impossible to get a physical address to write to from a Government website. Is that deliberate?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

It is not, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes to show me the examples I will make sure that they are corrected.

Photo of James Morris James Morris Conservative, Halesowen and Rowley Regis

Does the Minister agree that, given the UK’s skill base and creativity in digital services, there is an opportunity for the Government to be a world leader in the provision of Government digital services?

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

We are already the world leader. We have the finest Government digital services in the world. It is not just us saying that but comparable organisations around the world. But we can still do better, and there is a great deal that I want to do. I urge my hon. Friend to look out for the forthcoming strategy on this precise matter.