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Public Bodies (Review)

Volume 976: debated on Wednesday 16 January 1980

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asked the Prime Minister what further progress has been made in her review of various public bodies.

At the end of August 1979 Sir Leo Pliatzky was retained in the public service for the time being to help me in carrying this review forward. I received his report on non-departmental public bodies last month and I am presenting it to Parliament today as a White Paper—Cmnd. 7797.A substantial part of the report consists of a factual survey of executive, advisory and judicial bodies. I believe that this information will be of considerable value to Parliament and the public.The report also brings together the ministerial decisions which have so far been taken about the future of individual bodies. The effect of these decisions, including measures taken or announced at earlier stages in the review, will be to reduce the number of executive bodies by 30 and the number of advisory bodies by 211, with a consequent reduction of around 3,700 in the number of public appointments. Five judicial bodies are also to be wound up.The administrative economies from these measures, when fully implemented, will be roughly £11 million in a full year. These will be additional to the financial savings of about £350 million in 1980–81 from reductions made in the previously planned programmes of the largest executive-type bodies as a result of the general public expenditure exercise.The report also suggests some lessons for the future, based on a study of past experience. A general conclusion indicated is that a more cautious and selective approach should be adopted in the future towards the creation of non-departmental bodies, and in particular towards the "hiving off" of departmental functions to such bodies. The Government endorse this view. I can assure the House that we will look critically at all fresh proposals for new bodies and that we should be opposed to a policy of further hiving off of functions to non-Departmental public bodies.Other suggestions relate to control and accountability as regards new and existing non-Departmental bodies. The Government endorse these suggestions also, including the suggestion for taking a fresh look at each of the executive-type fringe bodies from time to time in the future. A stocktaking will be carried out later this year of a number of cases where decisions about individual bodies have still to be taken in the current review, and the Government will also carry out further reviews from time to time in later years.It will remain my objective to encourage the good management of public bodies which continue to serve the country, while dispensing with those for which there is no further need.