I had the opportunity to put questions to the Prime Minister this morning as a member of the Liaison Committee. I wanted to find out how confident we could be that he would meet his targets to make efficiency savings through information technology given the poor record of Government on big projects.
So, I was a little cheeky and asked if his reputation as being something of a technophobe was fair and, for once received a straight reply, as he admitted he was. Following this rich vein, I asked if he had ever visited the Government’s multi-million pound eGovernment portal website, and he helpfully admitted that no, he hadn’t. Chancing my arm a third time, I wanted to know if he knew the address of this much-heralded new portal, and, oh dear, he didn’t…
It seems that the marketing team for Direct.gov.uk have a little work to do if their services are to be accessed by the man who is responsible for the overall running of Government.
TRANSCRIPT FROM LIAISON COMMITTEE SESSION BELOW
Q101 Mr Allan: Prime Minister, do you accept you will not meet your Gershon Review efficiency targets unless Government dramatically improves its ability to purchase the large IT systems it requires?
Mr Blair: The IT systems are a vital part of it, yes.
Q102 Mr Allan: Given the performance to date on systems like the Child Support Agency, is this something which is up there on your public services agenda that you receive regular reports on?
Mr Blair: It is. Some of the IT projects do not go well and some of them do go well. Funnily enough, if you look at the comparison between public and private sector on IT projects it is not very much different.
Q103 Mr Allan: You have something of a reputation of being a technophobe on a personal level, is that fair?
Mr Blair: I am afraid that is fair actually, yes.
Q104 Mr Allan: It is. Have you ever visited the multi-million pound central government website that you have set up to get us all to use these new electronic government facilities?
Mr Blair: I think that is a very unfair question. The answer is no.
Q105 Mr Allan: Do you know the address of this multi-million pound project?
Mr Blair: No.
Q106 Mr Allan: Your head of e.government, Ian Watmore, would be able to tell you all about it.
Mr Blair: That is exactly why delegation is such an important part of the job of a prime minister.
Q107 Mr Allan: Finally, can you tell us when you last met with your head of e.government and how often you do?
Mr Blair: Yes. I cannot remember the exact date but we have regular meetings on this. The use of the new technology is a very, very important thing for Government. Online, for example, people are able to do far more than they ever used to. Some of the self-assessment on tax, there are now lots of people doing that online.
Q108 Mr Allan: Not the Prime Minister.
Mr Blair: There is not me doing it online, no, I have to say. I apologise for that, I have a few other things on my plate.