Transport Committee: Press Notice

Session 2009-10, 5 March 2010

Transport Select Committee and Communities and Local Government Committee: Joint Announcement

Too many ministers weakens policy design and delivery

Two cross-party Committees of MPs have each concluded independently this week that the performance of two major government departments has suffered over the past few years because senior Ministers have not held their posts long enough to oversee the development and delivery of effective policy.

In a report issued today, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee links poor performance at DCLG and its inability to establish sufficient influence across Whitehall with the negative impact of rapid ministerial turnover. In its third annual review of the Department, the Committee points out that no less than three Secretaries of State, three Ministers of State for Local Government and four Ministers of State for Housing have passed through the 'revolving door' to ministerial office at DCLG since the Ministry was established in 2006 .

Launching this report, CLG Committee chairman Dr Phyllis Starkey says, " Effective policy making and delivery suffers where officials' time and energy is consumed with getting to grips with another new minister; it is enhanced when well-informed ministers remain in place long enough to see their programmes through."

These conclusions echo strongly the view expressed by the Transport Select Committee's most recent review of performance at the Department for Transport. In a report published yesterday, MPs on the Transport Committee also highlight the number of changes in Secretaries of State for Transport€”five over the past five years€”and call on governments, present and future, to provide greater stability at this key Department in future.

Launching these findings, Transport Committee Chairman, Mrs Louise Ellman MP said, "Good transport is vital to the economy and to people's daily lives. Frequent changes of ministers make it harder to develop a consistent approach to managing and developing our transport systems. Any company that changed its chief executive as frequently as happens with the Department for Transport would be viewed with great suspicion by shareholders."

Lastly, the views of both these Committees add strength to a key conclusion of the Public Administration Committee which argued in the report of its recent inquiry into Good Government that "what is [..] crucial is leaving ministers in post for longer so that they can cultivate the knowledge and relationships they need in order to govern well. Assuming that the right appointments have been made in the first place, this would help ensure that government develops the ministerial capacity it needs to function effectively. "