Public Administration Select Committee: Inquiry

Commissioning Public Services from the Third Sector

Report | Oral and Written Evidence

The Public Administration Select Committee today has launched an inquiry into the growing trend toward Government buying or commissioning services from the “third sector”:  Charity or voluntary organisations and NGOs that do not fall into the traditional public or private sectors.  The Committee is calling for interested organisations and individuals to submit evidence to the inquiry.

Since 1997 Government has increasingly emphasised the role of the third sector in helping to develop and deliver better public services, as part of the wider policy agenda of increasing competition and choice in public services. This is a key part of the role of the new Office of the Third Sector, established in May 2006 and reporting to Ed Miliband.

In some cases third sector organisations may be better able to provide a service or to innovate, or to involve groups which are traditionally difficult to reach. Conversely, critics suggest that the third sector’s independence could be compromised by becoming Government contractors and there are questions about how these “contracted-out” providers of public services can be held accountable.

The Committee’s inquiry seeks to explore the costs and benefits of the government’s policy - which may be different for the state, the third sector, and for those that use the public services - and to judge the effectiveness of the government’s approach.

Committee chairman Tony Wright MP said:

“More and more of our traditional state services are now being performed in the voluntary sector. There are real issues that need discussion here, and the time seems right for this committee to look into it. It’s an exciting new area for us as a committee, and I hope to hear from all kinds of groups and organisations we don’t usually hear from.”

For full terms of reference please see the Issues and Questions Paper

Minutes of evidence taken by the Committee:

Thursday 17 January, Corrected Transcript
Witnesses: Mr Selwyn Image CBE, Emmaus UK Foundation, Mr Alex Whinnom, Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisations, Dr Sylvia Sham, Wai Yin Chinese Women Society, Mr Stuart Etherington, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Dr Peter Kyle, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, and Ms Debra Allcock-Tyler, Directory of Social Change

Tuesday 20 November, Corrected Transcript
Witnesses: Rt Hon Edward Miliband MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster & Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Phil Hope MP, Minister for the Third Sector

Tuesday 10 July 2007, Corrected Transcript
Witnesses: Mr Martin Narey, Chief Executive, Barnardo's, Mr Philip Cullum, Deputy Chief Executive, National Consumer Council (NCC) and Ms Alison Hopkins, Senior Policy Advocate, NCC

Thursday 5 July 2007, Corrected Transcript
Witnesses : Mr John Stoker, Commissioner, The Compact, Mr Campbell Robb, Director-General, Office of the Third Sector, and Mr Richard Gutch, Chief Executive, Futurebuilders England

Tuesday 12 June 2007, Corrected Transcript
Witnesses: Dr Neil Bentley, The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Mr Dave Prentis, Unison, Mr Will Werry, Commissioning Joint Committee and Ms Rachael Maskell, Amicus

Thursday 7 June 2007, Corrected Transcript
Witnesses: Lord Adebowale, a Member of the House of Lords, Chief Executive, Turning Point, and Ms Joyce Moseley, Chief Executive, Rainer

Press Notices:

9 July 2008
Publication of Committee Report (PASC publishes first ever select committee report on the Third Sector)

4 July 2008
Publication of Committee Report (Public Services and the Third Sector: Rhetoric and Reality)

19 November 2007
PASC to hear from Ed Miliband and Phil Hope

9 July 2007
PASC to hear experiences of "contestability" in public service contracting

3 July 2007
Pasc to hear from government agencies on charities providing public services

11 June 2007
PASC announce programme for summer term

5 June 2007
PASC to kick-start inquiry into Third Sector Commissioning by hearing from large charities

24 January 2007
PASC announces inquiry into "Third Sector" public services