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ICT (External Consultants)

Volume 507: debated on Wednesday 10 March 2010

11. How many external consultants have been recruited by her Department to work on ICT projects in the last three years. (321248)

The Department examines requirements for external consultancy on a case-by-case basis. Cabinet Office is committed in the long term to upskilling the IT department in order to ensure that we reduce the requirement for external resources, and we are building in-house the capacity, culture and skills that are needed to increase efficiency.

If the Government are decreasing staff numbers and then giving the same jobs to consultants, how can we be sure that we are getting value for money? A neighbour who was working on a Government IT project within a Department refused to relocate and was then redeployed by a consultancy firm at a much higher salary. How can that sort of example represent value for money?

It is important that we consider a couple of areas. For instance, from 1 April 2009 the Cabinet Office required all proposed procurements for external resources to be approved by the external resources board. External resources are used only when the external supplier offers skills or resources that are not available within a Department, and offers value for money. [Interruption.] That, coupled with the upskilling of internal ICT departments, will ensure that the Department does secure value for money.

Order. I do hope that the House will come to order. It is very discourteous to the Minister who is answering the question at the Dispatch Box for people to sit wittering away to each other as though their conversations are more important than the answer. They are not.

May I say how much I agree with you, Mr. Speaker? It is so important that people at home can hear what is being said.

On consultants, may I say to my hon. Friend how important it is that we secure local procurement for the various contracts that exist? It is important to ensure that, when ICT is procured, there are local jobs for local people.

I thank my hon. Friend for championing, and ensuring that we have, local jobs for local people. We have to consider value for money and whether we have the skills in-house to provide the services and IT strategies that we need.

Will the Minister very kindly stop this assault on the English language? Can we drop these awful terms, such as “upskilling” and “third sector”?

Upskilling is now a recognised and understandable term. I apologise if the hon. Gentleman is put off by it, but I explain to him that it means that we will educate people further in the necessary skills that they need in order to do the job. I hope that that makes it clearer to him.