Press Notice 62, Session 2005-06

 3 November 2006

PASC LAUNCHES INQUIRY:

PUBLIC SERVICES: PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST?

PASC - the Public Administration Select Committee  - today launches a new inquiry into the role that “customers” or “users” should have in shaping or even helping to provide public services.

The establishment of the Parliamentary Ombudsman scheme in 1967, and the introduction of the Citizen’s Charter in 1991 reflected an emerging consensus that  public service users have a right to minimum standards, and a right to some recourse when those standards are not met. More recently  a number of initiatives aimed at improving public services have put renewed emphasis on the citizen as a ‘customer’, ‘consumer’ or ‘user’ rather than passive recipient of the service.

This inquiry seeks to build on the Committee’s previous report into “Choice, Voice and Public Services” by considering the development of “voice” in the design and delivery of public services: mechanisms for complaint and redress, customer feedback, official consultations, and dedicated user representative bodies. It asks whether users should be more directly involved in service delivery - and if so, how this might be achieved.

Key questions to be addressed in this inquiry include:

  • Is it possible to set minimum standards for public services? If so, how is this best done?

  • Do official consultations typically manage to capture the views of the right people? 

  • How valuable are advisory panels in the design and delivery of public services?

  • Should users be more directly involved in service delivery?  If so, how can this be achieved?

  • How does user influence relate to wider issues of democratic accountability?

  • Are there situations where the views and experiences of service users are irrelevant?

An issues and questions paper, outlining the inquiry in more detail, is available on the Committee’s website at: www.parliament.uk/pasc   

Notes:

The Committee is inviting written evidence from interested parties and will also hold evidence sessions to hear oral evidence from some of those who submit written evidence and from relevant officials.  The Issues and Questions paper can be found on the Committee website at

www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/public_administration_select_committee/pascppfiandq.cfm

The paper should be with the Committee by 10 January 2007.  Some respondents may wish to concentrate on those issues in which they have a special interest, rather than necessarily answering all the questions.

Evidence submitted should:

· be submitted as hard copy on A4 paper and as an electronic file also, by email to [email protected], or on computer disk in Rich Text Format, ASCII, WordPerfect 8 or Word. Hard copies should be sent to Eve Samson, Clerk, Public Administration Select Committee, Committee Office, First Floor, Committee Office, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA;

· have a covering letter containing your full postal address and contact details;

· any memorandum of more than ten pages should begin with a one page summary;

· avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material;

· further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witness.htm.

Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, either by printing the written evidence alongside the oral evidence or by making the evidence available through the Parliamentary Record Office. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005.  Its terms of reference are to examine the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, and to consider matters relating to the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, and other matters relating to the Civil Service. The Membership of the Committee is as follows: 

Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Paul Rowen (Lib Dem) (Rochdale), Grant Shapps (Con) (Welwyn Hatfield), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

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Chairman: Dr Tony Wright may be contacted for press inquiries on 020 7219 5583

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