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Government Agencies: Transparency of Decisions

Volume 704: debated on Thursday 25 November 2021

10. What recent assessment the Government have made of the transparency of decisions taken by Government agencies. (904357)

The Cabinet Office’s tailored review programme ran from 2015 to 2020. The programme considered transparency in its review of over 100 bodies. Further, the public bodies reform programme was launched earlier this year. A key output of the programme is a new series of public body reviews, which will focus on four areas of assessment: governance, accountability, efficacy and efficiency.

I look forward to perhaps participating in those reviews with the Minister, and I thank him for his response.

On a recent trip to Berlin, the Transport Committee heard from German health and transport officials how they had formed the rules on international travel restrictions, the rationale behind them, and how they had explained those rules to the industry, which seemed to be working happily alongside them. In contrast, our own decision makers were, sadly, taken to court in order for those in the UK international travel industry to better understand the rationale. With this new review approach, will it be possible for us to better find a way in which the public and private sector can understand what the rule making and decision making is really about?

I thank my hon. Friend, the Transport Committee Chairman, for his question. I know how important this issue is to him and to the sector. Ministers and officials have engaged extensively with the aviation and travel industries throughout the pandemic, including through our global travel taskforce report, which set the framework for the safe return of international travel. The Cabinet Office continues to be a friend to industry. We will keep on engaging with businesses as we undertake a further review of our international travel policy early in the new year to provide certainty for the spring and summer 2022 seasons.

While calling for transparency from other public bodies, the UK Government need to lead from the front. It is a fact that the VIP lane allowed contracts to be given to Tory friends’ small businesses out of all proportion to their size, turnover and track record. If the UK Government believe in transparency, why did they fight tooth and nail to hide the VIP lane information?

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point, but the National Audit Office did not find as he believes. We are committed to transparency, as per action 24 in the “Declaration on Government Reform”. A key output of the public bodies reform programme is a new series of Department-led public body reviews.