To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how he intends to apply the Government's principles of open government to his Department.
My Department will fully implement the Government's policies on open government while continuing to discharge our duty to protect the material which needs to be protected.
Will the Minister give a commitment that the chief executive of the next steps agencies and. other senior officials in his Department will consult and negotiate with the appropriate trade unions at the beginning of the process of market testing and at each stage throughout the process? Does he accept that if the Government are to be really open, the process must begin with Government Departments being seen to be open and fair in all their dealings with their own employees?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's last statement. The Government place great emphasis on their market testing initiative, which gives the opportunity for greater value for money and those savings being employed at the sharp end of defence spending. As for taking the unions into the Government's confidence, we are willing to be candid about what the plans are likely to be for market testing. That is the only way to approach the matter.