Skip to main content

Private-Sector Contractors

Volume 210: debated on Tuesday 30 June 1992

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether private-sector contractors who under-take civil service work will remain under the scrutiny presently exercisable by Parliament; and whether the public will have recourse to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in cases of maladministration by private sector contractors carrying out work done previously by Government Departments.

Where civil service work is contracted out following a market testing exercise, the accountability of Ministers to Parliament remains unchanged. The jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration is unaffected.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether private-sector contractors undertaking civil service work will have to conform to established civil service practice regarding the confidentiality of information that may come into their possession; whether employees of private firms employed on such contracts will have to sign the Official Secrets Acts 1989; and what will be the position of foreign national employees of such firms employed on such contracts.

Contractors working for government departments are, as appropriate, subject to contract conditions which require the protection of classified information to a standard equivalent to that which applies within departments generally. Contractors' employees, including any who are foreign nationals, who may have access to classified information, are security cleared to the level appropriate to the information concerned. Such employees who have access to information to which the Official Secrets Act 1989 applies receive notice that the Act applies to them, and are normally required to sign declarations acknowledging their obligations under it.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what degree of openness there will be regarding any future contracting out to the private sector of civil service work; and if he will make a statement.

It has been this Government's established practice to ensure non-discrimination and fair competition in public procurement, as set out in administrative circulars issued by the central unit on purchasing in HM Treasury. From December last year, EC rules, which in large part replicate United Kingdom best practice, were written into the United Kingdom legislation which will implement a further EC Directive to ensure compliance throughout the EC.