Minister for the Cabinet Office, John Glen's speech on evaluation in government

Minister for the Cabinet Office, John Glen's speech to the Evaluation Taskforce Annual Conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre

 The Rt Hon John Glen MP


Good morning, everyone, it’s a pleasure to be here with you all today and to officially welcome you all to the Evaluation Task Force’s Annual Conference. 

Initially, I thought my office was playing a joke on me. Yes Minister, we want you to go in front of an audience of three-hundred experts in assessment, appraisals and judgement and speak publicly about a subject they’re much more familiar with than you! 

Hopefully you will go easy on me today.

In all seriousness, I am very pleased to be here because today’s focus – Creating Better Evidence in Government – is more important than ever before. 

Necessity of Evaluation

When we think of innovation, we often think of ‘the next big thing’ – the software, the gadget, the new tech which will make all of our problems a thing of the past. 

They absolutely have their merits, we only need to think of how Artificial Intelligence is used in public service to understand the importance of innovation. It can be transformational and very quick.

But sometimes the most innovative thing we can do is ask questions. Did this programme work? What were its impacts? How could we make them better? 
I am very clear that – through rigorous evaluation – we can vastly improve our public services. Yet it isn’t as common as you might think. 

A recent internal review by the Prime Minister’s Implementation Unit confirmed this. They recently found that only eight percent of government spend on major projects is properly evaluated.

Now, of course we are making decisions with insight, which will help the public lead healthier and happier lives, but the potential for us to go even further is obviously not being realised fully yet. 

Evaluation Since 2021

We’ve been trying to correct this since the spending review in 2021, which was when the Evaluation Task Force was set up, to ensure the UK became a world leader in evidence-based policy decisions. 

Since then, we’ve seen some remarkable success.

The Taskforce has supported over 300 programmes across government, programmes valued at £139bn, to design and deliver robust evaluations of key Government policies. 

Those of you that are familiar with this, and myself as an MP, where we know that there are communities with embedded, sometimes multi-generational challenges. 

It is critical that the constant innovations of politicians, coming up with new solutions that are presented as a panacea, are properly evaluated. 

So where the evaluation of our Supporting Families Programme estimated that every £1 spent on the programme delivers £1.51 of fiscal benefits. 

It is because of that work, that taskforce, that the Treasury committed a £200m increase in funding off the back of a robust evaluation, as an MP, embedded in my community knowing that the additional resource is actually going to lead to effective outcomes is deeply reassuring, and that is at the core the purpose of what you’re doing here. 

So that’s £200m more in funding to vulnerable families, through a policy that we know works.

This, by its very nature, is cross-government work.

I know that cross-government collaboration can be challenging, but I know from my time in the Treasury that nothing wins people over more than the promise of more funding.

Our Evaluation Academy is ensuring this work is spread across departments. 

Last year 40 government analysts took part, who in turn passed on their skills to more than 1,000 colleagues in less than 4 months. 

Some of the original cohort returned to deliver the content at the Academy this year to civil servants from 22 government departments.

This is obviously very impressive work and will go a long way to helping us solve our public sector productivity puzzle.

This will only be turbocharged with the new Evaluation Registry, launching in April, which will become an invaluable tool for understanding “what works” in Government.

It’s clear to me that this is absolutely the right approach to take.

The role of central government should be to enable progress and through evaluation, we can take the most rigorous processes from the private sector and boost the potential of our public sector.

Funded Projects

Our first two sets of Evaluation Accelerator funding provided over £13 million in funding for over 20 unique projects, with each centred around improving our delivery of public services, with evaluation at their heart.

The Centre for Homelessness Impact evaluated their Lifelong Links programmes, which has shown it reduces the risk of young people leaving care becoming homeless by 10%.

‘Foundations’ - the ‘What Works Centre’ for Children’s Social Care - is preparing three randomised controlled trials, which will transform our understanding of how we can support families affected by domestic abuse.

And the Department for Transport is analysing how the UK should build its electric vehicle network.

I’ve seen for myself how this approach can help us tackle some of our most complex societal issues.

Last Thursday, I visited the West Yorkshire Police HQ in Leeds, to learn about the College of Policing’s Domestic Abuse Forensic Marking project which is part of a programme of interventions aimed at addressing violence against women and girls.

I was given a demonstration of the technology that the police use to reduce crime and protect vulnerable people.

They also let me fire a Smart Water forensic spray at a live target, which is not something I typically get to do from my desk in Whitehall, as much as I’d sometimes like to!

The evaluation of this project, and others like it, will inform future policy-making in this area – this is a sensitive issue, but one that has been stubbornly difficult to address, where our interventions could deliver change and better value for taxpayer money.

We need less rhetoric on the ambition, which typically all politicians share, and more rigour on actually proving what does work, and getting the machinery of government to translate that into universal application.

And that powerful example that I was seeing in Leeds last week goes to the heart of what all of your work is about.

New Projects

These projects have been a real success story, and I am delighted to be able to turn to the next chapter. 

Today, I can announce the final instalment of nearly £1m of funding for five additional projects which will help us understand what works in tackling crime, Net Zero, and recruitment. 

The College of Policing will be evaluating ‘Operation Divan’, convincing young people not to carry knives or weapons, again an incredibly complicated issue, but we need to underpin interventions with rigorous analysis.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will evaluate the Energy efficiency scheme and how our sustainable projects are appraised. 

Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education will be analysing how they can improve student wellbeing and mental health.

My Department – the Cabinet Office – will be measuring how recruitment is impacted by accelerated development schemes, like the Fast Stream, and I know there’s a lot more work to do in that space.

And finally, following my visit last week, West Yorkshire Police will be able to support two new studies, focusing on how automation and artificial intelligence in facial recognition and domestic violence protection notices can improve police productivity. 

I want to thank everyone here for their work on these projects and I look forward to seeing their results in the near future. 


Ultimately, the Government cannot be left to mark its own homework, and we need to build independent evaluation into our policies. 

But if we invest in evaluation, I have no doubt that others will start copying our homework.

I believe that we can be a world leader when it comes to a public sector guided by rigorous evaluation, where success is measured and studied, and then critically, hopefully, replicated. 

As a former Chief Secretary, ensuring value for money for the taxpayer will always be in my DNA as a minister, and I think there are real lessons to be drawn about alignment of this evaluation work to spending teams in the Treasury in order to ensure the optimisation of the allocation of resources. That’s probably a subject, certainly off script, but something that needs addressing very soon.

Putting rigorous evaluation at the heart of policy-making will not just mean that we have a better idea of what works and spread best practice. We will also deliver more efficient public services and target spending where it can be most effective, which I’m sure is the common thread that motivates us all to be involved in this work. 

So I hope I have conveyed my personal enthusiasm for what you do and my thanks for what you have achieved, and set out some of the next steps around the next agenda. It really is critical work, we need to get this right, make it the norm across Whitehall and use it to drive more efficient and confident allocations in spending reviews of which there will be another one very soon.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to join you this morning, it’s a great privilege to be here and I wish you well in your conference today and the work you are doing.

Thank you.

From: Cabinet Office and The Rt Hon John Glen MP