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Efficiency Savings

Volume 540: debated on Wednesday 8 February 2012

We have made huge efficiency savings in the spending we inherited from the previous Government. In the 10 months to March 2011 we delivered £3.75 billion in savings by reducing waste. For the first time, the savings were verified by the Public Accounts Committee and by the National Audit Office in its report last week, but this is only the start and further significant savings will derive from the Efficiency and Reform Group’s programme of long-term, sustainable reform.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am a keen follower of his Department’s website and I noted that its jobs section last week advertised eight jobs with a salary of more than £100,000 before bonuses, perks and who knows what tax arrangements. Will the Minister explain how that fits with his freeze on non-essential and non-front line jobs in the public sector, and at a time when public sector workers are under increasing pressure?

It is completely consistent with that, because we need particular skills to drive out the waste we inherited. Particularly, there is a need for commercial and IT skills. While those skills exist in Government, we do not have enough of them. Every single one of those external recruitments by the Cabinet Office will have been approved by me personally, and I make absolutely no apology at all for approving them. Where those skills are needed and a rigorous search has shown that they are not available within Government, we will recruit from outside and we will pay people properly for work that is essential.

Is it not a fact that the Minister’s Efficiency and Reform Group will achieve no savings at all if the most senior officials in Government are distracted into chaotic breaches of the Cabinet Office code of conduct? Will he confirm that the Cabinet Secretary has now restored efficient Government by launching an investigation into such destructive breaches of the code as that reported in The Times yesterday of a senior No. 10 aide saying the Health Secretary should be “taken out and shot”?

Frankly, coming from the hon. Gentleman—the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the previous Prime Minister, who operated in a No. 10 that was widely reviled as a snake pit of back-biting and anonymous briefings—that is pretty rich.