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Volume 511: debated on Tuesday 8 June 2010

4. If he will estimate Government expenditure on external consultants in (a) 1997 and (b) the last year for which figures are available. (921)

Information on 1997 central Government expenditure on external consultancy is not held centrally, but records for 2007-08—the first year for which figures are available—show that spending on external consultants was £773 million in central Departments. In 2008-09 that rose to £1.1 billion for central Departments, or £1.57 billion when the whole of central Government is taken into account. Future expenditure will fall significantly as a result of the freeze on consultancy spending recently announced by the Government.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for that answer, and welcome him into the job. He should note that the figures show gross profligacy and a waste of taxpayers’ money that affects everybody in the House, all my constituents in Watford, and everybody in this country. I should very much like the Chief Secretary to assure us that that disgraceful waste of money will not happen again.

My hon. Friend is right about waste and inefficiency, and consultancy is not the only example. I can give him two or three more. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spent £12,000 on branded golf balls over three years. The Ministry of Defence spent £232,000 on eight paintings in a single year. The Department for Communities and Local Government has spent £6,000 on deluxe espresso coffee machines for nine new, but empty, regional fire control rooms. He can rest assured that the actions that we take will ensure that that kind of waste and inefficiency will never happen again.

Order. I know that the Chief Secretary will want to stick to the narrow subject of external consultants.

He works at No. 10 Downing street—[Interruption]—and I will give the hon. Gentleman a full response if he wants one.