The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1993Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech to Charter Mark Winners – 27 October 1993

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the Charter Mark Winners Conference, held on 27th October 1993.


Back to Basics: Public Services

Three weeks ago, I spoke of the need to return to commonsense values: courtesy, neighbourliness, consideration for others, and individual responsibility.

I meant what I said. It is time to stop feeling embarrassed about wanting to do right by other people; time to stop belittling those who believe that there is something more to life than self gratification. Time to encourage and reward people who look beyond self interest to acknowledge their responsibility to others.

It is time to say, and to say clearly, that there are some people who devote their lives to public service. Not because it pays well, not because it is more secure, but because it is more fulfilling. For them, public service is a vocation.

They are the unsung heroes, who work as long as it takes to get the work done, who go the extra mile, who put others before themselves. And let us just pause for a moment to remember what that can mean. Think of the tragic murder of PC Dunne. There was a man devoted to his job, determined to serve his community. Every day, people like him go about their duties in a similar spirit.

The last thirty years have shown how much we need people like these.

The Citizen’s Charter: Promoting a Better Society

Last week I spoke of the importance I attach to businesses and the voluntary sector working in partnership to promote a sense of responsibility to others. I also said that exactly the principles lie behind what we were trying to achieve through the Charter.

And today, at our 1993 Charter Mark Winners Conference, we see those principles working in practice. You carry the principles of public service forward into the 1990s.

When I launched the Charter two years ago, I was inspired by two things. First a belief that we needed to put the customer first and make public service mean just that.

Second, that there were many thousands of public servants who wanted to do just that.

We’ve all got stories of individual teachers, nurses, social workers or police officers who have insisted on applying commonsense and first principles. The Charter seeks to extend choice, accountability and quality in public service. But it’s also a means to deliver what the public wants and needs – an efficient helpful and professional service.

The Charter is turning the tide. And it is giving people in the public services a new belief in change – for the better. We talk about changing the culture of service provision. But I see it as a way of giving the lead to all those public servants who have always stuck to the basic principles: those people behind counters and desks who have never forgotten what it is like being on the other side. They are people who stick by the basic truth that public services should be run for the public who pay for them and for those who depend on them.

But these people can only give of their best if they get the best leadership. That is up to you – the managers of our public service organisations. It is for you to capture the enthusiasm, to motivate your staff and inspire them with the value of public service – and to provide better and better service to the community.

We have all had to battle against a great deal of cynicism about the public service and the Citizen’s Charter. Today I see 93 new examples to refute the cynics and I know there are many more. It’s easy to forget just what enormous changes we are seeing in the quality and standards of our public services.

People who used to have to set aside 3 or 4 hours for a visit to a hospital outpatients clinic now find they are given timed appointments.

Parents are told at least once a year exactly how their child is performing at school – and can look in the paper and compare the performance of that school with others in the locality.

People asking for a visit from the gas, electricity, phone or water company, no longer have to give up a day from work but are given a morning or an afternoon appointment.

And who would have believed two years ago that you could not book a driving test by ‘phone or pay with a credit card? Well, now you can.

The Charter is raising standards. And it is raising people’s expectations too. People expect good complaints systems. They expect their letters or ‘phone calls to be answered promptly. They expect clear information. They expect the person behind the desk to have a name as well as a face. And that increasingly is what they are getting.

So I want to issue an invitation to all the journalists here today. Don’t take my word for it. Go and visit some of these 93 winners and judge for yourself the success of the Citizen’s Charter.

Winning a Charter Mark award is a significant achievement. For delivering the Citizen’s Charter requires team work – team work from top management down to junior staff. So please take back to everyone in your organisations my warmest congratulations.

I would also like to praise the work of the 317 organisations whose applications were not successful. They too have made a great effort to improve service and to achieve Charter principles. They may not yet have attained the level required for the Charter Mark, but they are well on the way to doing so.

Today the Charter Mark presents us with the opportunity to highlight the best of what is being achieved. It offers a chance to show by specific examples just what the Charter movement is about.

Let me give you a few examples from today’s Charter Mark Award winners. East Gloucestershire NHS Trust has lowered waiting times, created better access for physically disabled people, and introduced early morning physiotherapy clinics, so that patients can choose to attend before work.

Lewisham Direct Team promise their customers that if they fail to make the normal refuse collection, they will make a collection later that night if customers phone by 7.00pm.

MANWEB now guarantees morning or afternoon appointments. In InterCity Anglia, passengers can call a travel check line which is updated hourly. And there are many more examples.

If you look through the achievements of today’s Charter Mark winners, you will see the same messages again and again – waiting times down, response times quicker, customer satisfaction up, standards raised.

The Citizen’s Charter is spreading throughout the British public service. But we’re not mean – we’re not keeping it to ourselves. We’re exporting it too. In just over a month’s time delegates from every continent will be gathering here to talk about the Citizen’s Charter and

Service to the Citizen. The Americans have acknowledged how much the UK experience with the Citizen’s Charter has influenced their own reform programme – as the Vice President told William Waldegrave this only last week.

But ultimately it is not by the world’s eyes that you are being judged but in the eyes of the people you serve.

I have said that I want to encourage a move back to basics. Basic values, like consideration for others and individual responsibility. I would add the value of public service. I am proud of our privatisation programme, and there is more to do. But there will always be a role for the public sector and for public service: whether it is defending our country, nursing our sick, teaching our children or policing our streets. It is to reward the spirit of public service that the Charter Mark Awards were invented. You have proved to me that many people never moved away from those basic values.

That is what matters. That is what you are delivering. That is what we are here today to celebrate. And now, by example. spread your message to others. My warmest congratulations to you all on winning the Charter Mark Award.