Skip to main content

Public Bodies Bill

Volume 529: debated on Wednesday 15 June 2011

As my hon. Friend knows, the Bill has completed a tortuous but constructive passage through the other place, and we hope for a Second Reading in this place soon. In the meantime, the Cabinet Office and other relevant Departments are holding information sessions for colleagues who want to discuss this important Bill.

I thank the Minister for his reply, his hard work and the excellent job he is doing on the Bill. Under the Bill, public statutory corporations such as British Waterways will be reformed and become mutuals. Have Ministers considered other similar public bodies, such as trust ports, for inclusion in the Bill?

I understand that my hon. Friend is frustrated by the pace of progress in his committed and spirited attempt to allow the people of Dover to take over the port. He will know that the Transport Secretary, who is sitting alongside me, has announced a consultation on the criteria for assessing the sale of trust ports in England and Wales, largely to reflect the Government’s localism and big society agendas. It is right for that consultation to conclude before further decisions are taken.

In March, the Minister for the Cabinet Office claimed that he would make £30 billion of savings from his quango reform programme embodied in the Public Bodies Bill, so that he could

“protect jobs and front-line services.”

My freedom of information requests show, however, that nearly £25 billion of this £30 billion comes from front-line cuts to housing and our universities, including teaching and research. Will he apologise for these misleading statements about protecting front-line services?

No—and I am surprised by the line of questioning, because this programme of very overdue reform to the complex landscape of quangos and non-departmental public bodies goes exactly with the grain of the reforms proposed by the previous Government. We are going further in trying to deliver much greater accountability in government, and, on the way, delivering what we believe will be about £2.6 billion in communicative and administrative savings over the spending review period.