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Policy Advice (Outsourcing)

Volume 542: debated on Wednesday 21 March 2012

2. What recent discussions he has had with permanent secretaries on Government outsourcing of policy advice. (100938)

The head of the civil service has set up a number of themed groups to explore various aspects of civil service reform. One is exploring whether outsourcing policy making could deliver more creative and innovative results, while ensuring accountability and value for money, and I met permanent secretaries recently to discuss that and other issues.

The Cabinet Office spent almost £120,000 in one day in August last year on consultancy, and McKinsey & Company is reported to have earned almost £14 million from Government health policy since the election. Outsourcing policy advice is costly and can lead to conflicts of interest, so will Conservative Ministers stick to their pledge in their manifesto to reduce the amount of consultancy?

Not only will we, but we have. We have more than halved—I stress, more than halved—the cost of consultancy to the taxpayer. Under the previous Government, such money was spent incontinently, and the result was bad value for money and the serious undermining of the self-esteem of professional civil servants, who like being asked to do difficult things and are very good at doing them.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that every Government need the best possible policy advice available, and that sometimes it comes from within the civil service, and sometimes from without?

As the new Cabinet Secretary said the other day, the civil service has in the past had a monopoly on policy advice, and he and others feel that it is something worth questioning. I am sorry that it is only the Opposition who seem to have closed minds on the issue.