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Public Spending

Volume 539: debated on Monday 30 January 2012

1. What steps his Department has taken to increase transparency in (a) local government and (b) departmental spending. (92054)

We have replaced the previous Administration’s byzantine bureaucracy with transparency and local accountability. We have asked every council to open up their books and to publish their spending over £500. Every council is doing this, apart from Nottingham city council, which finds it a bit difficult.

My Department is practising what we preach. Not only do we publish our spending over £500, but we have also published every single item of corporate credit card spending since 2004.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating and applauding Tendring district council, which has decided not only to publish items over £500, but to publish all items of expenditure every month? This has created a climate of thrift that has allowed it to cut council tax. Will he ensure that Whitehall Departments, agencies and quangos take similar steps?

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Tendring. The council did not make the headlines for many years, but suddenly it has started coming up with lots of new initiatives. It is certainly in the forefront of transparency, and where Tendring leads, I am more than happy to follow.

Frankly, it is not good enough, because the Department is not publishing spending between 50p and £500, and that is where—on credit cards and in other areas—a lot of things go wrong. Can we have some transparency in this wretched Department, instead of the cover-up it is currently practising?

I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. We have published every penny of spending on credit cards, and that is why we know that Labour Ministers wined and dined at some of the finest restaurants in the country, including the Boisdale, Somerset House, the National Gallery, the Wolseley and the Cinnamon Club. It may be of interest to know that Labour Ministers were not alone—the Audit Commission managed to go to L’Escargot, Coq d’Argent and the Cinnamon Club, and its board members even went to an oyster bar to discuss corporate governance, and then lost the receipt.