Although there were no directions in the past 12 months due to propriety and regularity issues, two directions were issued to my Department’s accounting officer due to concerns that he had about the value for money of actions proposed by the then Secretary of State: one related to implementing unitary city councils in Exeter and Norwich; the other covered the purchase of Blackpool Leisure Assets. In the interests of transparency, I am today placing copies of both directions in the Library.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. I am sure that he is aware that the First Division Association—the civil servants’ union—has reported that Ministers in the previous Government systematically ignored civil service value-for-money considerations. Can he give us an assurance that this Government will not do the same thing?
We are fortunate in having able and experienced civil servants at our Department, and we certainly want to listen to their advice. It is worth remembering that that direction not only ignored value-for-money considerations, but contradicted stances taken by the previous Government. We will seek value for money, and we will also seek to be consistent.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his post. Can we debate Exeter and Norwich when the Local Government Bill comes to this House, although as these somewhat arrogant, high-handed and incompetent new Ministers have already lost a vote on it in the Lords before it even reached its Second Reading, we may never see it?
Does the Minister not understand that public investment through regional development agencies in towns such as Blackpool has been vital for business and jobs and should be in the future? Securing Blackpool tower and the Winter gardens for Blackpool and its millions of visitors was the right thing to do. What the House, the people of Blackpool and its Conservative council want to hear today is a promise from the Minister that he will not allow his colleagues in the coalition to undo the crucial deal that has been done. Will he give that assurance?