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Topical Questions

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2018

The private sector has a vital role to play in delivering public services and is something that this Government will continue to champion. Earlier this week, I announced new measures in the wake of the collapse of Carillion to promote and deepen responsible capitalism, whereby everyone plays by the same rules and businesses recognise their duties and obligations to wider society. That is in line with the Government’s commitment to deliver an economy that works for everyone.

As Carillion showed, the outsourcing of Government contracts is nothing but a gamble with jobs and public money. When will the Tories put the public interest first instead of their friends, spivs and speculators?

The collapse of Carillion has shown that outsourcing genuinely transfers risk from taxpayers to shareholders, directors and lenders—to the private sector company.

T2. What work has the Cabinet Office done to ensure that Departments have the skills and people required to deliver a successful exit from the European Union? (906101)

My hon. Friend is right to ask that question. We are focused on ensuring that we deliver a successful and positive exit from the European Union. The Cabinet Office works closely with colleagues in the Department for Exiting the European Union and other Departments to ensure that all those places are professionally filled. I can confirm that, as of the end of March 2018, some 5,500 staff have been recruited to the Departments most affected.

We empathise with the hon. Gentleman. It is okay; maybe some lozenge will be provided, or some water. Please, let us hear the question.

Was that heard? I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I think we may have to ask someone else to ask his question for him.

I take it that the hon. Gentleman, through the hon. Lady, was asking for examples of successful outsourcing. I refer him to the outsourcing of the teachers’ pension scheme, which has cut administrative costs by nearly half, to the benefit of pension scheme members.

T3. What progress has my hon. Friend made in allowing the Jain community to declare their religion in the new census, and will she agree to meet a delegation from the community? (906102)

Yes, and I look forward to that meeting. Since the response to consultation on the matter in May 2016, the Office for National Statistics has continued to consult stakeholders, and has met the members of the all-party group on Jainism. It is considering all the evidence provided, and will finalise its recommendations shortly.

T7. Will the Minister please explain how the Government justify wasting time and taxpayers’ money on the “testing and scrutiny” of contractual arrangements, only to ignore their own highest possible risk rating for Capita and award it the fire and rescue contract? (906106)

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Cabinet Office has extensive functions to ensure that we award contracts only to companies that offer the very best value, and that was exactly the case in that instance.

T4. What progress is the Department making in implementing the findings of the race disparity audit? (906103)

The Government have committed themselves to explaining or changing ethnic disparities highlighted by the audit. We have already announced action on criminal justice, employment support, school exclusions and youth unemployment, and we continue to talk to a range of stakeholders to take that work further.

You will recall, Mr Speaker, that representatives of Wick High School were here last week—thank you for your kind remarks about them. Does the Minister agree that bringing schools the length and breadth of Britain, including my faraway constituency, to the House will do much for learning about democracy here in the mother of Parliaments?

Yes. I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s constituents to this place. I hope that they will find things of interest to them during National Democracy Week, and that the resource packs that are available to all parliamentarians will enable them to make the most of it.

T5. What recent discussions has my hon. Friend had with Cabinet colleagues about the cost to the taxpayer of public sector workers’ taking trade union facility time? (906104)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. For too long, unions in the public sector have received taxpayer funding for an activity that is inadequately controlled and poor value for money, which is why we are introducing transparency in respect of facility time. We believe that proper management could save our taxpayers up to £100 million.

The anniversary of the Prime Minister’s announcement of a public inquiry into contaminated blood is fast approaching. Can we expect a statement in the House to say that the terms of reference have finally been agreed and the public inquiry can get on with its work?

I am acutely aware of that anniversary date, and the justifiable expectations of survivors of that tragedy. I have sent the draft terms of reference proposed by the chair of the inquiry to the devolved Administrations, as I am obliged to do. I hope that I can announce the full details as rapidly as possible.

T8. What reassurance can my hon. Friend give that Departments will work together to deliver our ambitious plans to create more jobs and prosperity in Weymouth and on the Isle of Portland in the years ahead? (906107)

Departments across the Government are committed to working with local partners in Weymouth and Portland to build jobs and prosperity. In July, representatives of a range of Departments will visit local partners to see for themselves the enormous opportunities that exist in the area, and to identify how Government policies and programmes could help to support their ambitions.