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Volume 540: debated on Wednesday 8 February 2012

During 2010-11, the Cabinet Office spent just over £9 million on consultancy. The figure is down from £27.5 million in 2009-10, the last year of the previous Government. That is a reduction of more than two thirds and we anticipate further reductions in the current financial year. Across central Government, expenditure was reduced from £1.234 billion in 2009-10 to £361 million in the last financial year—that is a 71% reduction.

In August 2010, the most recent month for which figures are available, the Cabinet Office spent almost £120,000 on consultants for advice on judicial reviews. Does the Minister agree that spending hundreds of thousands of pounds defending this Government’s mistakes is not the best use of taxpayers’ money?

The Government are obliged to protect what they do in the interests of the taxpayer. I draw the hon. Lady’s attention to the fact that spending on consultants was spiralling completely out of control under the previous Government. That was providing very bad value for the taxpayer and it was very demoralising for mainstream civil servants, who felt that they were undervalued by the previous Government, whose default setting when anything difficult came up was to hire consultants. We will put our faith in the work that civil servants do. [Interruption.]

Order. A large number of very noisy private conversations are taking place in the Chamber, even as I speak. Some involve very senior Members who ought to know better.