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Volume 519: debated on Wednesday 24 November 2010

6. What estimate he has made of the change in his Department’s spending on consultancy between 2009-10 and 2010-11. (25854)

The Government have cut the previous Government’s profligate spending on consultancy. In the first six months of this financial year, consulting spend by the Cabinet Office fell by 42% compared with the trajectory for the previous year. In the first six months of this year, consulting spend right across central Government fell by £350 million—or more than 50%, so it has more than halved—compared with the same period last year.

The whole House should welcome that news. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that proper processes were proceeded with on the procurement of the DLA Piper contract?

I can only assume that the proper processes were followed, because this happened under the previous Government, when the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) was Minister for the Cabinet Office. Any suggestions of a conflict of interest arising from the position of the Deputy Prime Minister’s wife are wholly misplaced, because the contract was placed before he was anywhere near government.

I welcome the Minister’s statement on a reduction in consultancy fees, but hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is still being spent with these firms. Why does he not simply say no and get civil servants to do their jobs?

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s robust support for this Government’s change in direction from that taken by the Government of whom he was a member. We believe that the incontinent use of consultants is demeaning for civil servants, who would, in many cases, like to be doing this work and are very capable of doing it. [Interruption.]

Order. Far too many private conversations are taking place in the Chamber. This is very discourteous and it should end.