Motion to Take Note
My Lords, it is a pleasure to move this Motion. I should say that I have had notice from a number of colleagues about it. I know that there is concern in all parts of the House about the implications of universal credit and, because of the shortness of notice given for this debate—I was offered the opportunity for it to be this evening only 48 hours ago—many colleagues have indicated to me that they would have been here had they had more notice. In that regard, I am particularly pleased that the Minister himself has seen fit to come to answer the debate, which is typical of him and his well known interest in this important area of public policy. I hope that the debate will not stretch for too long but it is important to make the best use of the next few minutes, if we can.
I am of course founding this Take Note debate on the transitional provisions regulations and if I am founding it on any part of the documents at all, it is on paragraph 4.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum. As colleagues will know, paragraph 4.3 refers to “widening the availability” of universal credit and says that,
“as announced in Parliament on 5th December 2013, the introduction of the 2014 Regulations is part of the Department’s changing approach to how legislation relating to the rollout of UC is structured”.
I hope to be able to use that to describe some of the wider ramifications that sit alongside the content of these regulations.
I also start by referring to the always excellent work of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. In paragraph 20 of its first report, it draws attention to the changes that the technical regulations bring and, in particular, expresses surprise that the regulations were,
“accompanied by the original cost/benefit analysis”,
of the impact assessment from 2012. That is a well founded question because things have changed so much over the past two years, so the department is not safe simply to rest its case on the impact assessment made all those months ago.
The other two points that the committee made which are salient to this evening’s discussion are, first, the fact that by now,
“Universal Credit has been made more flexible and can be ‘managed’ if problems arise in a particular area”,
and that those changes can now be “made by Commencement Orders”. Commencement orders are fine but they are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny, so I would be a bit nervous if such orders started to be used willy-nilly for claims being allowed in areas or to special cohorts of claimants without that scrutiny. Finally, the report says that the regulations,
“include provision to allow the Secretary of State discretion … to stop taking Universal Credit claims in … geographic areas”.
As the regulations suggest in paragraph 4.3 of the memorandum, that is a change to previous provision.
So the first part of my case is that on the surface these regulations are what we expected and contain no other surprises, since we always understood that the 2014 regulations would replace the 2013 regulations, and so far so good: I am perfectly comfortable about that. However, when you look at the position outside and the context in which these regulations are being introduced you discover huge and increasing uncertainty about the programme, which is no surprise to anybody who has been following the debate. Against the background of the regulations and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s report, I want to spend a little time on that mounting uncertainty this evening under four different headings.
First, on case load, I would have been surprised to be told in 2012, when the Minister took the primary legislation through in the Welfare Reform Act, that in 2014 the active case load would amount to 5,610 straightforward cases—I have the statistics here that were published on 11 June 2014. More than six in 10 of the 5,610 cases in that case load on 31 March 2014 were younger people under the age of 25. They are mainly single and are what is known in the trade as straightforward cases. They could not be more straightforward and it could not be a much smaller number. I remind the House that we are talking about a target case load by 2017 of 7.7 million households. At the current rate of progress, there are questions—I put it no higher than that—about how we get from where we are now to where we want to be in 2017.
I think that only three Jobcentre Plus areas are handling more than 1,000 cases each at the moment: Oldham, Wigan and Warrington. I know that the Government are rolling out the case load from time to time and there are, I think, up to 10 or more places where the new pathfinders are in operation. However, as far as it is conceivably possible, what I would like is a year-by-year estimate of the new rollout period in terms of case load because the transitional period that we are now facing in these regulations is much longer than I anticipated. Other people may have different ideas but if you had said to me in 2012, when the primary legislation was passed, that the transitional period would be as long as it looks it will be, I would have found that difficult to believe.
My second point is about how a longer transition period will impact on claimants. There is a very obvious case that the sooner people get access to the smoothing effects and the work incentive effects of universal credit, the better it will be for them. Day by day, for the people who do not have access to these provisions, making work pay and all the rest of it gets much harder. More acutely than that, in these regulations there is notification that employment and support allowance claimants, in particular, may be facing a delay even beyond 2017. I have read press reports about this. A report in the Guardian on 24 May suggested that 700,000 employment and support allowance cases could be affected. I understand why: it is because they have been transported off incapacity benefit. However, if we are really starting to talk now about 2018 to get this job done, we are in territory that begins to call into question the programme rollout as it stands. I have even seen knowledgeable IT experts make the case that this rollout may take anything between five and 15 years—from now. These are serious people who know about major projects.
We really have to look at some of the consequences of a longer transition period. For example, the local authority costs for continuing housing benefit administration would not have been anticipated and will not be in their plans. What steps are we taking to look out for that and make proper plans? Finally, on claimants, there is the local support services framework. At an earlier stage, the Government themselves said, rightly, that the LSSF is almost as important as universal credit itself. I agree with that, but if there is a much longer transition period, what is happening to finance that? The delays in the transitional phase are causing uncertainty in local authority and local support service framework circles.
My next point is about value for money. I note with interest that it is a while since the National Audit Office report was published. The Minister will know that my spies are everywhere. Actually, some of my spies may be double agents; I think that the department has found out whom I have been talking to and turned them against me, which, if true, is a dastardly act. I am being facetious, of course. However, I make the point that if there is a continuing NAO interest in this programme rollout, it may well be gearing itself up for a second investigation. If that is the case, I think it will indicate that the NAO is uncertain about the future of the project, and nothing could underline that more clearly.
I have also seen some costs. I do not believe everything that I read in the press because I am not that stupid, but some people are now estimating that, when all is said and done, this programme might cost not £2.5 billion but £12.5 billion by the time we are finished. I find that very difficult to believe, and if the Minister could give us an assurance on that it would be very helpful. We have certainly seen a £40 million write-off; that is dead money and we know about it. In the scheme of things, with a programme this size, the department may say, “Well, that always happens in programmes of this kind”, but £40 million is a huge amount of money. There is also a £90 million investment that has only a five-year life left in it now because of the changes to the IT system, so that is £40 million and £90 million that has been expended for not as much value as we would have liked, and that is an ongoing concern.
I want to talk about the obvious underlying core uncertainty concerning the ICT provision. The NAO and Major Projects Authority reports have, prima facie, some very frightening figures. More than anything else, I would really like, if the Minister is able to explain it this evening, to understand why we have abandoned agile computing. This whole programme was sold to us by the department on the basis that it would be done differently. This is not the first time that I have heard that about an ICT programme; I remember it being said about the Child Support Agency as well, but you live and learn—or maybe you do not—and life moves on. I do not understand why the clever and interesting project work that was done by the Warrington team on agile computing has now been changed to what is known in the trade as end-state systems, which I think means web-based applications. That is technically a complete change of direction in ICT provision, as far as I understand it. I also understand that we have spent some money on keeping agile computing going so that there is a twin-track approach. This is all very reminiscent of the CSA, where two systems ran in tandem. I now subscribe to Computer Weekly because that magazine definitely has a serious mole in the department. My jaw drops when I read some of the stories that it brings forward. I do not know how many of them are absolutely accurate but the magazine certainly knows enough to be concerned, and its stories are contributing to the uncertainty of which I speak.
The Major Projects Authority has reset the risk assessment for universal credit. I do not know what “reset” means. When I was a provincial solicitor about 40 years ago in Jedburgh sheriff court, I used to defend people for “theft and reset”. I do not know what it means in terms of risk analysis but it is certainly not red, amber or green. Will the Minister enlighten us about exactly what the consequences of “reset” are? The head of the MPA, John Manzoni, when he was asked why he had reset the risk, was clear that this was a ministerial decision and nothing to do with him, which increases my worries. It would be helpful if we could get some departmental explanation from the Minister officially on the record in this debate. Obviously we are waiting with interest to see what the Government’s response is to the Select Committee report that was published in April, because the committee did some extremely sensible work and raised sensible questions that further increased the uncertainty, certainly in my mind.
I acknowledge the efforts that the Minister personally has put into all this, and I acknowledge the value of some of the briefings that the department arranges for Members of this House on all sides; they are extremely valuable. I hope he agrees with me, though, that they are no substitute for making clear and public exactly what the Government are trying to do and what is true and what is not, in order to try to contain the uncertainty in the best way that we can. As he knows, I have always been in favour of this programme and I continue to be, but I say to him honestly that the idea of continuing prudently and cautiously and getting it right gets a bit stretched if we start looking beyond 2017. If we are not careful, confidence in the whole programme could be dissipated if we do not deal with this honestly and openly.
The Minister should go back to the Secretary of State and point out how successful the Transport Secretary has been over HS2. The Transport Secretary was on the record right from the beginning acknowledging the difficulties, and I think that he has had a better hearing, and dealt with the issue better, than if he had dissembled, looked for excuses and said that everything would be all right on the night. I think the House deserves the unvarnished truth.
Maybe it is a slight abuse of procedure to seek an explanation of this kind from the Minister today, as statutory instruments of this kind do not really admit of general debate. However, if the Minister can find some way of reassuring the House that in the coming months if not years, as these programme rollout problems unfold, he will ensure that he comes to the House and explains what is going on, what it is necessary to put right and what the Government are doing about it, he will find himself getting more support from the House than he otherwise would. I hope he will think about that carefully, and I hope I have not spoilt his evening too much by getting him here at such short notice. This is an important subject and I am looking forward to hearing what he and other colleagues have to say in the rest of the debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, for that speech and indeed for this opportunity to question the Government on the progress of universal credit. I do not think that he need worry too much about whether he strayed from the regulations. The points that he made were precisely the areas that I too had zoned in on from the regulations, so it is certainly my view that his questions are within the spirit, and clearly the content, of tonight’s business.
Before I turn to the content, I want to ask the Minister a process question. Could he explain to the House what the rush was for the consideration of this Motion? I saw these regulations appear on the green sheet certainly no more than two or three sitting days ago, and it was only yesterday that it was confirmed that this debate would take place tonight. There may have been other noble Lords with an interest in this subject—there were certainly plenty of us during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act—who wanted to participate in the debate.
I have to leap to the defence of the Minister. This is my fault: I tabled the debate and was offered a slot, and the Government were very generous in giving me a slot on the Floor so I took it early. That is entirely my fault and was nothing to do with the Government or the Chief Whip.
I thank the noble Lord for that intervention and for leaping to defend the honour of the Minister. The only point that I make is that it may not be widely understood outside the House that no one consults, for example, the Opposition to see whether a spokesperson is available. This gave me 24 hours to get these regulations out, read them and understand what they were about in order to be able to hold the Minister to account. The process should allow for that. I was not suggesting any conspiracy on the Minister’s part—I know that these matters are far above his pay grade and mine by some considerable distance—but I simply place that point on the record. I think that we would get better debates if we all had a bit more notice when things of this complexity were coming forward. It is not as though universal credit is in a rush. It is not about to be rolled out across the country next week or next month.
The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, raised the question of the speed of transition. I think he was rather generous to the Secretary of State. On 1 November 2011 Iain Duncan Smith promised that 1 million people would be claiming universal credit by April 2014. So how does it look now? The noble Lord pointed out that the case load now, far from being 1 million, is 5,610, and the signs are not promising. In January this year, 1,010 people started claiming universal credit, in February it was 630 people and in March it was 560 people. Only 6,550 people have claimed anything at all since the scheme began. That is an enormous difference.
The Secretary of State has insisted repeatedly that universal credit would meet its deadlines of first national rollout from October 2013 and final replacement of housing benefit, child and working tax credits, income support and non-contributory JSA and ESA by 2017. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, on this; I would not bet the DWP pension pot on that deadline being met at the moment.
The noble Lord asked a question about what “reset” means. He is right not to believe everything he reads in the papers, but the papers were pretty much of the same view that the reason the project had to be reset was that it had previously had an amber/red rating from the Major Projects Authority and was probably about to get a red rating, so in order not to get a red rating it was reset so that it did not get any rating at all. I very much hope that that is scurrilous suspicion on the part of the media and that the Minister can correct it and explain the process to us.
However, it is not the first time. Whenever criticisms are made of the project, the department comes back and Ministers say that those criticisms are not fair because they do not take account of changes that have recently been made. There comes a stage when, if problems keep arising and changes are made, it is legitimate to say: how can you persuade people outside, never mind the House, that the department has learnt enough from previous mistakes to have any confidence in the next level of management development that has been put forward? I hope the Minister will be able to give us some reassurance on that front.
Recently, there have been even more worrying reports about problems in the pilot universal credit areas with claims that administrative errors and computer glitches had led to increases in personal debt, rent arrears and evictions.
The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, raised the question of value for money. In four years, more than £600 million has been spent and, as he pointed out, the Government admit that £40 million has been totally wasted and a further £90 million “written down” because the IT bought was not fit for purpose. That is a lot of money for 5,610 people to be claiming universal credit. That context means that the Minister will understand why there is nervousness about the fact that these regulations seem to give the Government considerable discretion in deciding how the rollout should take place in future.
First, as the noble Lord pointed out, unlike the 2013 transitional regulations, these regulations give that discretion to the Government. They no longer contain proposals for categories of people to be brought on to universal credit. Rather, “gateway conditions” for universal credit claimants will in future be spelt out in commencement orders which, as the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments points out, are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Secondly, the regulations permit the Secretary of State to stop taking universal credit claims altogether either for certain categories of people or in certain parts of the country. That is a really significant shift in powers from Parliament scrutinising or passing regulations to the Secretary of State. Will the Minister give us some indication of whether there is any limitation to those powers? Could he, for example, decide not to include several benefits? Could he decide not to do Wales? Could he decide not to do the north of England? Is there any limitation to that discretion? If so, what does that mean for our understanding of what the transition timetable will be, a point pressed very effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood?
The questions I would like to ask the Minister are these. First, why are these changes necessary? What was wrong with things that were done previously when regulation was used? What is necessary? What is it about the process and, more importantly, what do the Government think the process is going to look like in future that means they need these powers?
Secondly, how will Parliament be enabled to scrutinise the decisions taken by the Secretary of State to control who is entitled to universal credit? The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, flagged up one of the points made in defence of universal credit, which is that it will give various benefits to categories of claimant. If that is the case—certainly the Government have used that defence in explaining why they had to cut existing benefits—that is a considerable power. How can Parliament hold Ministers to account for deciding who is and is not entitled to access a system created by Parliament with an expectation that it would by now have been experienced by 1 million people and would be entirely rolled out by 2017? That is a very serious constitutional question.
Thirdly, I ask the Minister for a timetable, certainly for the rollout of universal credit, as pressed by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood. More immediately, could he give us a timetable for when we will get the outstanding details we are waiting for on universal credit? For example, when will we get more information about exactly how universal credit will apply to the self-employed? There are many similar outstanding points.
Finally will the Minister commit today to increasing transparency around the universal credit process? As the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, signalled, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments said:
“The Committee was surprised to see this instrument accompanied by the original cost/benefit analysis from 2012, despite the well-publicised changes to the programme”.
I have to confess that I was less surprised. There has been a pattern of secrecy throughout the universal credit process, with Ministers insisting everything was fine when everybody knew it was not fine, and not just the moles who are clearly well supported by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood. Even now the Government are still resisting the release of key documents about the implementation of universal credit, despite rulings from the information tribunal that there was a “strong public interest” in their publication.
As well as being wrong in principle, this is a serious tactical error. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, indicated that there was support across the House for the principles of universal credit when the then Welfare Reform Bill was going through it, but there must be a serious risk that that good will has been eaten away and is being eroded. If Ministers want universal credit to succeed, especially given the increasingly lengthy timetable, they should be adopting a policy of bipartisanship—perhaps tripartisanship—and transparency. After all, millions of our poorest citizens need to know the system that they are going to depend on to help feed their kids, support them in their disability or enable them to work is safe and secure. There could be at least one, if not two, changes of Parliament before this is finally rolled out. I know the Minister to be very committed to this programme and to the changes he wants to see it create in the lives of those citizens who are dependent on benefits, but if the Government as a whole are invested in its long-term success, surely the most sensible thing to do is to try to engage with other parties to put information out there and to recognise that one of the reasons there is so much speculation in the media is that there is an information vacuum.
Finally, when the Bill was going through the Minister very kindly gave seminars for Members of the House from different sides explaining what was happening and helping us to understand the detail about implementation, or planned implementation, as well as the policy that would be considered by the House. Given that so much has changed, will he consider offering some updates to those Members of the House who are interested, particularly since they could not be here tonight, so that we can keep in touch with what is going on? That might lead to less rather than more speculation.
My Lords, I feel a bit castigated by the two speakers, who clearly feel that more communication is in order. I know that in the past I committed to keep noble Lords in touch. I take the point on that. I will look at the best way of communicating in the next period. Often I invite people along and nobody comes. I will try to find a time and an enthusiasm for noble Lords to come, because colleagues in this House have been very supportive of universal credit, which I acknowledge and appreciate. The atmosphere in this House when we discuss this programme is markedly different from that in the other place. I appreciate that for obvious reasons.
Let me talk about the timetable as it stands at the moment. Although the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, said that it was not about to be rolled out across the country any time soon, I can tell her that we are about to roll out expansion right across the north-west pretty soon. As noble Lords know, “soon” is a technical expression in our discussions. That represents 90 jobcentres: one in eight of the jobcentres in Britain will come in as we roll it out. That will be followed by couples, going out this summer, which in turn will be followed by families later in the year. New claims in those areas will go automatically, subject to their passing the gateway rules. There should be no great complexity. There is a slightly ugly expression that we have used before: the “lobster pot”. In practice, when people go into universal credit, they will stay in universal credit even if their circumstances change and it becomes more complicated. We now have a full apparat—a full structure—for running universal credit and we can do that.
We then have universal credit rolling out across the country during 2016. In that period, all new benefit claims will be for universal credit. Our plan is for the majority of existing claimants to move on to universal credit in 2016-17. My noble friend Lord Kirkwood was quite right when he drew attention to the 700,000 ESA claimants who have just had a transition from IB to ESA. We do not feel that there is necessarily a huge hurry for them. However, I can tell the noble Lord that some of his wilder, 12-year plans are certainly not in our plans. Clearly, we will be able to give more information as we develop and look at our enhanced IT programme.
By definition, there has been a series of quite aggressive questions that I am happy to answer. Before I go into detail, however, I will make the point that we are safely and steadily getting this new benefit out to the country. We are doing so in 10 jobcentres now and are about to expand the scheme quite a lot. We have 99% of employers on the real-time information system, so we are getting those flows and making that connection. There is one category of people of whom 90% make their claims online. We have now taken one element of the universal credit infrastructure, the claimant commitment, and deployed it right through the country. That is a big thing: it implies training more than 23,000 of our staff. It means that 600,000 people have signed it. We have been putting in computers and wi-fi along with the infrastructure to bring about this substantial change.
It seems to be working. Noble Lords will remember some initial figures showing that people felt that the financial incentive was better under universal credit. They looked for work for longer and applied for more jobs. Of this group, which we are watching carefully, the majority—three-quarters—were comfortable with the monthly payments, which I know has been of great concern to this House. We watch that, not least because whenever this House tell us to watch something, we do so.
The nature of the regulations represents a slight change to the way in which the commencement orders work, and it is important for me to explain this precisely. Previously, we had only the gateway conditions in the regulations. When we rolled out geographically, we did so by commencement orders. However, we are now mixing in new types of people at different times. Imagine the process: we are taking a new group, which must be small in size for safety, and testing it carefully. We take out that small group and take it through the gateway while doing a geographical expansion. You have to take those two decisions in tandem. That allows us to do this safely and steadily. That is the only reason that we are doing it.
To pick up the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, because we are doing it in that way we can deal with unexpected circumstances. For instance, when we open up four jobcentres to a new type of claimant and find that we have a problem—there are lots of things you find out and sort out as you go through—we can slow down if we have to and sort it out before we have done a massive amount.
I have given a commitment to the Social Security Advisory Committee—SSAC—that whenever we make an order that changes the gateway conditions for claiming universal credit, we will write to the committee explaining the changes that we are making. There is a process going on there for just the reasons about which noble Lords are concerned. Making arbitrary changes is absolutely not the purpose.
My noble friend Lord Kirkwood picked up on one of the points mentioned in the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee about impact assessments. Clearly, impact assessments are done when there is major legislation or very significant changes. There have been some changes to universal credit over the years. We have been pretty open about their individual effects; they have been on the record. However, there is nothing that justifies the major exercise of an impact assessment.
On transparency with the committee, we have invited committee members to our nearest live site, which is in Hammersmith. They have accepted, and we are looking for a date for that. We are trying to be as open as possible.
As my noble friend Lord Kirkwood said, I view the local support service framework as being as important as universal credit; indeed, this House is responsible for the local support service framework. That is because it was impressed upon me very vigorously that the concern with universal credit was what we are going to do for the vulnerable. That was the genesis of something which, as all noble Lords know, was not in our minds when we started. We have built quite an intensive process, starting with local authorities but with lots of other partners such as housing associations in particular and other third-sector bodies, to build a delivery model.
We have one in our four initial sites, which have a local support service framework, and we will test to get a definitive version of that. That will be published in the autumn next year, and we are planning to do another series of very specific pilots. There is a lot of enthusiasm around the country to take part in that—I am sure that my noble friend Lord Kirkwood’s moles are telling him all about that process. I suspect that that is one of the reasons his moles have become much more enthusiastic about the process they are engaged in, because we are gripping this.
One can forget this—I am being pretty dry in this response—but one of the things we are trying to do is to change people’s lives with universal credit. The present system has effectively parked people and has not wanted to do much with them to get them to be able to function more effectively. As I was preparing for this debate—I did not have much more time than the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock; I might have felt a little like her about the timing, but I could not possibly say that—I thought it was worth trying to get some colour and was struck by a quote from one of our own universal credit work coaches, Nicola Rous in Hammersmith. She talked about how she got a vulnerable client in—a claimant called Robert, who needed help managing his finances—and what she did about his situation. Let me quote her.
“Handling a monthly budget can be daunting for someone who’s never had to take direct responsibility for their personal budgeting before. When a lump sum of money lands in your bank account it can be tempting to go out and spend it all at once. But I’ve worked closely with Robert to help him plan his spending and make sure his money lasts the month, that his bills get paid and that he has enough left over to spend on groceries … One of the big changes for Robert has been paying his rent directly to his landlord. I was able to help him set up a direct debit to make sure he keeps on top of this and keeps a roof over his head … We also offer all our claimants group or one-to-one sessions run by the Citizens Advice Bureau on money management which really helps give them budgeting confidence”.
That is a transformation of the relationship and the level of support. She concludes:
“I couldn’t imagine going back to my old adviser role. Some of the changes we’ve made are only small but they make the world of difference. Aside from the career development opportunity that being Work Coach offers, I can genuinely say I also get a huge amount of satisfaction from my job”.
That is the kind of change this can have, and it shows the change in approach. Noble Lords can imagine, with each person we move into independence, the benefit for the country socially, economically and even, I suspect, on the happiness index.
The point on certainty of spend made by my noble friend is clearly of great importance, and we are spending a lot of attention on our relationship with local authorities. We have already notified them of their 2014-15 housing benefit allocation and we aim to inform local authorities of their 2015-16 allocation in plenty of time so that the planning is sorted.
We have had the discussion on the programme and the spend. That was slightly more mature in this House. We all know that, when you have a £2.5 billion programme with a high IT content, there are elements that you write that you do not need. In the private sector that can be a third of a programme. Clearly, any write-off is always deeply regrettable, but one has to put those things into a context. We remain within our budget of £2.5 billion—not £12 billion—and we are looking at an overall net benefit of £35 billion from this programme. The NAO has said that it is taking a regular interest in the programme; we will continue and will see more reports on it from the NAO.
However, as regards the way in which we are doing it, it is somewhat misleading to think of this as a twin-track system, because we have a single plan for universal credit. We are finding what works through the rollout we have; it may be small, but you do not need huge numbers to find out what works. It is important that we do this testing. At the heart of the programme is what we call the “test and learn” process, in which we take what is happening and assess and measure it against other things, aiming to find out how it works. That informs what we call the end-state build, which is thoroughly under way and is agile. The first Warrington programme was trying to be agile, which I think is the best way; this end-state solution—the fully digital one, the interactive digital one—is being done on an agile basis.
What does reset mean? What happened, as noble Lords will remember, is that Ministers, the Secretary of State in particular, took a decision that the programme was not going properly and took a view to stop it and reorganise it—reset it. It is not a new category; it is a description of a process. If one is in charge of a programme, rather than blundering on with it regardless, I would hope noble Lords would agree that it is the job of the Ministers in charge to take that kind of decision, work out how to rebase it—reset it—and make sure it is done safely and securely, which is what we are aiming to do. That is everything that we are doing.
I hope we are as transparent as we can be. It is a huge programme. It has very many ramifications. It is changing all the time every day that you are working on it. We aim to communicate in good time and at the appropriate time. We have very significant scrutiny. We have the NAO, the PAC and the Select Committee—I certainly do not feel underexamined on this programme. We aim to release information regularly, including statistics. I pick up the concern in this House and I will just have a look at having a programme for this House, just to get everyone back up to speed so that they know exactly what it is. Noble Lords spend a lot of energy on the primary legislation and then it all kind of goes quiet and one just wants to know what is happening with the key issues. I absolutely hear that and will do something about it.
Meanwhile, I thank my noble friend for giving me the chance at short notice, which the two Front-Benchers here feel very bitter about—but there we are; that is the legislative process. I thank the noble Lord very much.
House adjourned at 8.40 pm.