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Houses of Parliament: Shared Services

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 22 January 2015

3. What estimate he has made of savings that could be achieved through sharing more services with the House of Lords. (907155)

There has been no overall assessment of the potential financial savings from increased joint working with the House of Lords. Subject to what is said later today in the debate on the report by the House of Commons Governance Committee, the Commission expects to write to the Lords House Committee shortly to propose an initial joint meeting later this year. I would not be surprised if the issues raised in the Governance Committee’s report about greater bicameral working were on the agenda for that meeting.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman, and he will know that there is wide support for that in the Governance Committee. Members would like to see such work go forward as quickly as possible. The trouble with this place and the other place is that things can be dragged out for some time, so will he ensure that we can move down the road a lot quicker than usual?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, both Houses are sovereign, so we must make progress through dialogue and agreement. However, I am much encouraged by how the joint service for procurement was set up last year, and I believe that there is an appetite in both Houses to reach agreement. I will certainly do all I can to assist in that.

I know that my right hon. Friend has extensive management experience in the hospitality industry. What constraints does he see in making this place efficient compared with his private sector experience?

I thank my hon. Friend for that extremely interesting question. I would observe that when one is appointed chief executive of an organisation in the private sector, one is in charge, one takes responsibility and one gets on with it. In this place and the other place, we are responsible to the Members, so it is necessary to have a structure that properly reflects that. One therefore tries to take the best bits of governance that one has learned from the private sector but use them in a way that serves the House and its primary purpose of legislation.

The right hon. Gentleman also knows that this is not just about cost saving. Many of us are in favour of serious economies, but we want an effective system across both Houses that delivers good improvements to the quality of our ability to do our job. Many of us want co-operation on security and other things with the House of Lords, but this is not just about cost cutting; it is about getting a better service to Members of this House.

I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman and that is exactly what has been happening. Let us consider, for example, what is happening with the security services being brought in-house. That is the most effective model and will deliver the best service. The joint procurement service has been put together between the two Houses. The primary reason for that was to increase governance, but it is now also producing savings without any detriment—indeed, there is an improvement—to services. I am at one with the hon. Gentleman on that objective, and I believe we are starting to deliver it.