Cabinet Office Questions
September 7, 2011
Nick Hurd answers MPs’ questions on the Public Bodies Bill, the cost to voluntary organisations of the recent public disorder and the National Citizen Service pilots.
Public Bodies Bill
Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North) (Con): What steps he plans to take to put in place a system of regular review of remaining public bodies following the implementation of the provisions of the Public Bodies Bill. 69982
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): The Government are committed to reviewing non-departmental public bodies every three years. The reviews will provide a much needed, robust challenge for the continuing need of individual bodies and ensure that the body is complying with recognised principles of good corporate governance.
Mark Lancaster: Will the Minister remind the House how much money he anticipates will be saved as a result of the Bill? Given the amount of spending on so many quangos, much of which is so wasteful, are we not being slightly modest in our ambitions? Is there not even greater scope in future years to save yet more money?
Mr Hurd: My hon. Friend is entirely right—he should be nudging us to be more ambitious. We have placed on record what we think is a conservative estimate of cumulative administrative savings from reforms already identified of at least £2.6 billion over the spending review period, but we expect that to be a start rather than a finish.
Mrs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): Is the Minister concerned that some of the public bodies may be being abolished with a little too much haste, particularly given the riots in the summer? The Youth Justice Board was very successful in reducing youth offending by around 34%. Does the Minister not worry that we will get rid of some of the bodies in too much of a hurry?
Mr Hurd: The Youth Justice Board still exists. What we have set up with the Public Bodies Bill is a framework and mechanism for enabling reform. Each Department has to come to the House with a case for reform, which needs to be debated and processed through secondary legislation. That is what we have set up, so Parliament will have plenty of opportunity to scrutinise and debate.
Tessa Jowell (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab): In 2009, it was agreed that the office of the chief coroner would be established to improve support for bereaved families. The decision was taken with support from both sides of the House. In the passage of the Public Bodies Bill, the Government have signalled that they intend to abolish the office of the chief coroner before it has even been established. Which organisations are in favour of its abolition?
Mr Hurd: The right hon. Lady knows from our Second Reading debates that there are strong opinions on this subject. I refer her to what I said before; the mechanism that we have set out is for a genuine debate on the proposed reforms. That is what the Bill enables, and she and I, or appropriate colleagues, will have that debate in Committee in forthcoming weeks and months.
Public Disorder (Financial Cost)
Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): What estimate he has made of the financial cost to the voluntary and community sector organisations of recent public disorder in England. 69987
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): Since the riots, we have remained in close contact with our strategic partners, who are feeding in information about the impact of the riots on community groups. I have a meeting next week with community groups and sector representatives to discuss that impact and the way forward.
Jonathan Ashworth: I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. At the height of the disturbances that hit Leicester, the Age Concern ambulance bus was torched. Despite what the Prime Minister indicated to me in his statement of 11 August, Age Concern is not eligible for the compensation schemes. Will the Minister look urgently at setting up a compensation scheme for charities so that Age Concern in my constituency can replace its ambulance bus as quickly as possible?
Mr Hurd: I was as shocked as anyone by the torching of the Age Concern ambulance. My understanding is that under these circumstances, damages are recoverable from the high street support scheme. I have been informed that officials have sent that information through. I would be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and representatives of Age Concern if there are continued problems with this issue.
Mr David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that voluntary organisations are the backbone of our local communities and that any damage to their property or organisation diminishes their opportunity to assist the individuals and groups that are most in need?
Mr Hurd: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend, which is why I am meeting many sector representatives and community groups next week to discuss the impact and the way forward. He knows as well as I do that we are doing a huge amount to support community organisations through deregulation and by making it easier for them to access finance.
Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): How much money does the Minister think he will have to put into the national citizen service to prevent future riots? How will he ensure that that is not done at the cost of general voluntary and community services that support young people, especially given that they are incurring additional costs in helping communities to rebuild after the riots and are subject to Government cuts?
Mr Hurd: We are hugely enthusiastic about the national citizen service; much more, apparently, than the Opposition Front Bench. The experience from this summer is that it has been a fantastic experience for young people, connecting them with a chance to do something really positive in their communities. We are piloting it, but have to proceed cautiously because a lot of taxpayers’ money is involved. As the Prime Minister has made quite clear, we are keen to expand it as fast as we can.
National Citizen Service
Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) (Con): What recent progress he has made on the national citizen service pilots. 69988
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): We are absolutely delighted with the progress of the national citizen service. About 8,500 young people enjoyed an extremely positive experience this summer. The feedback has been fantastically positive and we will publish an evaluation report shortly on this year’s pilots.
Caroline Nokes: I thank the Minister for that response. Will he confirm that he will look to involve organisations such as the YMCA, which has a fantastically strong track record of providing constructive activities for young people, in the delivery of the scheme?
Mr Hurd: I share my hon. Friend’s high regard for the YMCA and lots of other youth organisations across the country. As I said, we are ambitious to expand the national citizen service and are looking to commission up to 30,000 places next year. We are actively reviewing a list of applications and bids from a great diversity of suppliers. We will announce the results of that shortly.
Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): I know that the Minister is still working out the fine details of the scheme, but may I urge him not to reinvent the wheel, but to make the best use of the Prince’s Trust and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, of which I am a gold member? As well as not reinventing the wheel, I urge him not to break the spokes in the wheel by shattering youth service provision throughout the country as very good schemes go to the wall under this Administration.
Mr Hurd: I should make it clear that we are deliberately offering 16-year-olds in this country something new and distinctive. If the hon. Gentleman listens to the kids on the programme this year, he will hear that they see it as being very different from the Duke of Edinburgh’s award and the Prince’s Trust. It is set up to be different, and that is why we are piloting it. As I said, we are extremely enthusiastic about the feedback.
Karl McCartney (Lincoln) (Con): In light of the excellent work in Lincoln this summer of the pilot national citizen service managed by the Lincolnshire and Rutland Education Business Partnership, can my hon. Friend assure me that careful consideration has been given to the EBP’s bid for next year, which I wholeheartedly support, so that it can be the deliverer of the NCS for the whole of Lincolnshire in 2012?
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): I am grateful to Lincolnshire and Rutland Education Business Partnership for the excellent work that it has done this summer, which is a really good example of communities working together to support the NCS. As I have said before, we are giving careful consideration to all bids received to run the 2012 pilots and will be making an announcement very shortly.
Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): What arrangements does the Minister intend to put in place to ensure that places such as Northern Ireland benefit from the opportunities presented by the big society bank?
Mr Hurd: I was in Belfast just a few weeks ago, at Hillsborough castle, talking about just that to a section of community organisations and social enterprises that were fascinated by the big society bank. We made it very clear that it was open for business in Northern Ireland.
Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): I enjoyed a very rewarding week of volunteering in my constituency during the summer with Mencap, the National Trust, Kirkwood hospice, the Forget Me Not Trust and many more. Does the Minister agree that volunteering should be a key component of the national citizen service?
Mr Hurd: I congratulate my hon. Friend on the sterling example that he has set others. Of course, one of the purposes of the national citizen service is to connect young people with their power to make a positive difference in their communities. If he had visited some of the pilots that I did, he would have been absolutely inspired by the enthusiasm with which they undertook that task.
Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the promotion of youth organisations such as the Passion youth centre in Shepshed, which are often set up by churches, should be a cornerstone of the Government’s response to the riots over the summer?
Mr Hurd: I should certainly like to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Passion youth centre and the local churches that support it. That seems to be an excellent example of the community pulling together to make better use of an old facility, which is exactly the type of thing that we are trying to encourage through the Localism Bill, Big Society Capital and the Community First grant programme.