I am not sure I can live up to the expectations, Mr Speaker.
We have run a registration process for smaller providers to maximise the opportunities for them to be involved in the competition, and we awarded £150,000 to the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations to help the voluntary sector and mutuals to compete for contracts. We will embed good market stewardship principles in the system so that there is fair, reasonable and transparent treatment of all those involved in the direct and indirect provision of services.
I thank the Minister for that reply, but does he agree that in many previous exercises by other Government Departments, inappropriate scale of projects and burdensome bureaucratic detail have meant that small, voluntary local organisations have been ruled out? Will he undertake to ensure that high-quality, small-scale providers will be able to access these contracts?
I understand the point my right hon. Friend makes: it is very important that we reduce bureaucracy wherever we can. I know he has experience of this from his time in government. It is also important that we support those small, voluntary organisations when they show an interest and then support them through the contract-bidding process and contract management. My right hon. Friend will be reassured to learn that there is already considerable interest in the voluntary sector: some 550 voluntary organisations have already expressed their interest in participating.