Skip to main content

Public Spending: Value for Money

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 27 October 2022

I assure the hon. Gentleman that our Treasury colleagues hold us all to account in ensuring that value for money is secured. The Infrastructure and Projects Authority provides advice and assurance specifically on the Government major projects portfolio. It supports robust project cost estimates and builds delivery capacity and capability. Its 2022 annual report sets out the progress made across the GMPP.

Under the Conservatives’ crony approach to public spending, taxpayers’ money has been unforgivably and irresponsibly wasted. During the pandemic, a staggering £9 billion was spent on personal protective equipment that was written off, £2.6 billion was spent on items that were not even suitable for the NHS, and a whole series of contracts just happened to be awarded to friends of Tory donors. Can the Minister explain why the principles of

“public good, value for money, transparency, integrity, fair treatment of suppliers and non-discrimination”

are not in the Procurement Bill as promised in the Government’s Green Paper?

The hon. Gentleman talks about what happened during the pandemic. I remind him what it was like. Opposition Members were constantly saying that we needed PPE in hospitals and we needed it yesterday. They were right to demand it and the Government were right to deliver it. They stretched every sinew and our brilliant civil service did an enormous amount of work and good to get the PPE where it was required during the pandemic.

The hon. Gentleman raises a point about the Procurement Bill, which we will soon be able to scrutinise in this place. He will welcome, as I do, the fact that it will bring greater uniformity in regulations across Government and greater transparency across Government in terms of pipelines, and it will give more opportunities to small and medium-sized enterprises to exploit the many benefits of Government procurement.

What work has been done across Government to look at the temperatures at which public buildings are heated this winter, and in the longer term can more be done to improve the energy performance of these buildings?

I will have to get back to my right hon. Friend on the details of that. I am afraid I do not know whether that specific work has been undertaken, but he raises a good point that, given the costs of energy, we should all be cognisant of that cost and particularly—giving value for taxpayers—ensure that we in government are doing our utmost to be as efficient and effective as we can be in the delivery of high-quality services.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) highlighted the fact that, during the pandemic, we saw the Government ignore qualified companies and use its VIP lane to give their friends enormous contracts. This does all have consequences. Meanwhile, Social Enterprise UK found that, between 2010 and 2020, the UK may have missed out on £700 billion-worth of economic, social and environmental opportunities. This is not value for money. Far too often, small businesses end up at the back of the queue for public contracts behind big corporations that have an army of PR staff and flashy websites. So will the Minister cut the red tape, and create a fairer, more transparent and streamlined procurement process that gives all our small businesses a fighting chance?

Yes, I will. May I welcome the hon. Lady to, I believe, her first Dispatch Box performance? It is good to see her on the Front Bench. If I may say so, where we can we try to work together across the Floor, and I think there is commonality of view that we need to cut red tape, to reduce regulation and to give the maximum opportunity to small businesses across the country to access procurement. I hope that she and her team will be welcoming the Procurement Bill when it arrives in this place. [Interruption.] She is going to wait to see it. That is perfectly reasonable, and she will be very impressed when she does. It will increase transparency, reduce regulation and, I am certain, increase opportunities for smaller companies.