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Government Transparency and Accountability

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 15 July 2021

Since 2010, the Government have been at the forefront of opening up data to allow Parliament, the public and the media to hold public bodies to account.

Despite the need to reprioritise resources to respond to the covid-19 pandemic, central Government Departments continue to publish core transparency data. Such online transparency is crucial to delivering value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency, and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way.

Following the recent declaration on Government reform, the Government will continue to look at how the range of information published by Government can be improved and made as useful as possible to the public, press and Parliament.

The following subject areas include documents and information that the Government is due to publish. This statement also includes updates on cross-Government work on outcome delivery plans, business appointment rules, information management guidance for public authorities and policy work on ministerial absences.

Outcome delivery plans

The Government are today publishing outcome delivery plans for the financial year 2021-22. Outcome delivery plans form the basis of the revised Government planning and performance framework, building and improving on the previous single departmental plan framework.

Outcome delivery plans set out how each UK Government Department is working towards the delivery of its priority outcomes, which were first and provisionally published at spending review 2020. Priority outcomes capture the Government’s most important long-term policy objectives, from maximising employment and improving skills to achieving net zero by 2050.

In areas where closer working between Departments would achieve better results, 16 outcomes were agreed on a cross-cutting basis between Departments, reflecting the Government’s commitment to breaking down silos and enabling stronger collaboration between Departments. Outcome delivery plans place a greater emphasis on joint working between Departments, enabling Departments to plan together to deliver shared outcomes. The Government have also identified provisional metrics for each outcome at spending review 2020, against which progress towards delivering these outcomes will be measured.

Since the spending review 2020, these priority outcomes and metrics have been further refined and revisions to those are reflected in outcome delivery plans. Priority outcomes and metrics will be reviewed again where appropriate at the next spending review later this year.

In addition to setting out the strategy for achieving priority outcomes, Departments also identify plans for delivering critical enabling activities, which are crucial to the successful delivery of outcomes. These enabling activities include: attracting and investing in skilled people; embracing innovation; and strengthening functional expertise to support the delivery of outcomes. To ensure we deliver on our sustainability commitments and make the civil service the UK’s most inclusive employer, the plans set out how Departments are driving sustainability, how their work contributes to the delivery of the United Nations sustainable development goals and the Government’s equality objectives.

The new plans also place greater emphasis on high-quality evaluation, which is critical to understanding what works. This builds on the detailed overviews of evidence bases and valuation plans that Departments provided to inform decisions at spending review 2020.

The Government use regular reporting to monitor progress against outcome delivery plans. Parliament and the public will be able to review how each Department is performing against its priority outcomes in its annual report and accounts, which Departments publish annually after the end of each financial year. More regular performance information for many of the metrics agreed for priority outcomes can be found in official statistics and other public datasets.

Hyperlinks to these datasets have been included in outcome delivery plans to make this data more accessible to the public.

Transparency in delivery of major projects

The Cabinet Office is publishing the “Annual Report on Major Projects 2020-21” (and accompanying quarterly Government Major Projects Portfolio data taken as a snapshot at 31 March 2021). The annual publication on the Government's major projects raises awareness of how Government is improving public services, providing value for money and benefits for citizens through its major projects. The report and accompanying spreadsheets detail the 183 projects on the Government’s major project portfolio.

Ministerial transparency

Departments will be today publishing the routine quarterly ministerial data on external meetings, gifts, hospitality and overseas travel.

Transparency on special advisers and senior officials

Special advisers are a critical part of the team supporting Ministers. They add a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to Ministers while reinforcing the impartiality of the permanent civil service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support.

In line with legislation, each year the Cabinet Office publishes a list of special advisers and their costs. Today, the Cabinet Office will be publishing the list of special advisers in post along with the cost of special advisers from the previous financial year (April 2020 to March 2021).

The Cabinet Office will also be publishing quarterly data on gifts and hospitality received by special advisers, as well as information on special adviser meetings with senior media figures and business appointment rules advice.

Departments will also be publishing routine quarterly data on the travel, expenses and meetings of senior officials and on business appointment rules advice.

Transparency in the civil service

Alongside routine workforce management information and sickness data, Departments will shortly be publishing updated organograms.

Transparency on correspondence

The Cabinet Office is publishing correspondence data on the performance of departments and agencies in responding to correspondence from Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords during the calendar years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Transparency in public bodies and public appointments

The Cabinet Office will today be publishing “Public Bodies 2020”. Public bodies play a vital role in the delivery of public services for all our citizens, covering wide-ranging functions. Well-governed, effective and efficient public bodies enable the Government to deliver its priorities. “Public Bodies 2020” is an annual directory that provides a single transparent source of top-level financial and non-financial data on all Executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies and non-ministerial departments across Government.

The Cabinet Office will also be publishing public appointments data. The public appointments data report provides a breakdown of the diversity of public appointees who were in roles covered by the governance code on public appointments on 31 March 2020 and those appointed to such roles between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. The latter data is a subset of the information published in the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ annual report.

Management of public authority records and information

The Government are publishing a revised code of practice on records management. Under Section 46(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has a duty to publish, and a right to revise, a code of practice providing guidance to relevant authorities on the management of their records. The code is a technical document aimed at supporting information management professionals in public authorities to discharge their duties under the Act.

In 2018, the National Archives was commissioned to undertake a routine review of the code. The code has since been revised and updated on a principles-based, format-neutral basis, bringing the existing 2009 code up to date with contemporary information management practice and the modern digital working environment. The revised code places information management in the context of broad principles, providing a more accessible framework which outlines how authorities should best manage their information to support appropriate public access under the Act. The code also clarifies the basis on which the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives operates.

Ministerial absencesfurther work

Following the passing of the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Act in March of this year, the Government have continued work considering the practical and policy considerations surrounding other forms of ministerial absence. We are specifically considering whether provision can be extended in circumstances of paternity leave, adoption leave, shared parental leave and sickness leave. These are complex issues which require careful consideration, taking into account modern working practices and the wider constitutional context. The Government have continued to make progress in its consideration of these issues as they relate to Ministers but is mindful of related work in other areas looking at the wider workforce and provisions for MPs, led by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. The Government will present a report focused on ministerial leave provision to Parliament in the autumn, setting out considerations and proposals.

Improving the business appointment rules

As the Government have previously set out, the Cabinet Office is working with the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments to improve the operation and efficacy of the business appointment rules. The work will consider and implement improvements to the scope and clarity of the rules, including the enforcement of the rules with an update to the rules later this year. The Cabinet Office is also working closely with Departments to improve the consistency and proportionality of the implementation of the rules, including improving training on and communication of the rules.

Copies of associated documents are being placed in the Library of the House and will be published on