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Government Efficiency

Volume 572: debated on Wednesday 11 December 2013

The efficiency and reform group supported Departments across Government to deliver savings of £5.4 billion in the first half of 2013-14, which was an increase of 73% on savings over the same period in the previous year. I am extremely proud of the hard work that civil servants across Whitehall have undertaken to achieve this success for the taxpayer.

Will the Minister tell me why the costs of the efficiency and reform group, which now employs 440 members of staff, have ballooned to £60 million? More importantly, will he tell the House today what he would not tell my hon. Friends on the Front Bench—how many people work there now and what is the cost?

A lot of this work simply was not being done under the previous Government, but the predecessor organisations employed more than twice as many members of staff as the efficiency and reform group now employs, and the simple fact is that in the last financial year it was responsible, with its colleagues across Government, for delivering savings of more than £10 billion by eradicating waste left by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member.

We know that universal credit will not be delivered on time, that £40 million has been wasted, that £90 million will be written down and that the IT system Agile was deeply inappropriate. The Opposition have learnt that Agile was used on the insistence of the Cabinet Office, so will the Paymaster General, who boasts of his efficiency drives, give us a full explanation of his Department’s role in this debacle and publish all guidance the Cabinet Office sent to the Department for Work and Pensions?

Oh dear. Is that the best the hon. Gentleman can do? I suggest he read the report by the Public Accounts Committee on what went wrong with universal credit. The problems only came to the attention of the DWP because of a review commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.