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IT Procurement

Volume 540: debated on Wednesday 8 February 2012

1. What recent progress he has made on bringing forward proposals on Government IT procurement; and if he will make a statement. (94020)

Soon after the coalition Government came to office, we introduced strict controls on ICT spend that saved £300 million in the year to March 2011 alone. We have opened up procurement to small and medium-sized enterprises, we are moving towards open standards and interoperability, and we are examining some of the incredibly expensive and burdensome ICT contracts that we inherited from the previous Government.

Will the Minister tell us more about how open source, getting computers to talk to each other through common standards, and smarter procurement can help to save billions of pounds, secure better computers, and break up the IT cartel that was fostered under the previous Government?

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Government have opportunities to handle their IT and increase their digital offering in transactional public services very differently from that which we inherited. It is also becoming increasingly clear that it will be possible for both the quality of those public services and public interaction to be massively improved, at a fraction of the cost incurred by the previous Government.

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to read the latest report on IT procurement by the Select Committee on Public Administration, which includes the Government’s response to our original report? We commend the Minister for that response, but there is further progress to be made. In particular, how will the Minister tackle the cartel-like behaviour of the large prime contractors?

The reports produced by my hon. Friend’s Committee are my regular reading, and I enjoy them enormously. I commend the Committee’s work, especially its conclusions on Government ICT. I also commend the work of the Public Accounts Committee, which has focused on the subject. I think that we are making progress, but I entirely accept my hon. Friend’s point: there is much, much more to be done. The previous Government left the taxpayer in hock to an oligopoly of ICT suppliers, and we intend to move on from that.