Contracting-out

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1992.

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Photo of Mrs Teresa Gorman Mrs Teresa Gorman , Billericay 12:00 am, 17th June 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has any plans to review the prospects for contracting out the functions of his Department.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Yes. The Department undertook a full examination in 1990 of the prospects for market-testing functions, leading to possible contracting-out. Those prospects have been reviewed by officials, with private-sector assistance, in developing a programme for market-testing in response to the "Competing For Quality" White Paper, and will be continually reassessed.

Photo of Mrs Teresa Gorman Mrs Teresa Gorman , Billericay

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that it would be a great feather in the cap of the Secretary of State for the Environment if, instead of looking for new premises elsewhere in London or anywhere else, he set about winding up the whole of his Department? That would be a wonderful example to Whitehall. As housing is now well on the way to returning to the private sector, as the new town corporation is already being wound up, water is already in private hands, and as the countryside would be better looked after by the National Trust or the Country Gentlemen's Association, there is little excuse for carting the enormous Department of the Environment all the way down the river to Canary Wharf.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

I know that we are having a particularly tough public spending round this year, but I cannot believe that the Treasury is suborning the likes of my hon. Friend to propose the wholesale closure of Departments. So I can only presume that her question was a freelance bid for a couple of lines in the Matthew Parris column.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

The Minister must understand that his hon. Friend has a serious point. Agencies have proliferated, work has been shed and ministerial workloads reduced —at what point will Ministers share the experience of redundancy, which is affecting the rest of the country?

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

The hon. Gentleman might not have noticed that the Department has one Minister fewer than it did before the general election, dealing with the same effective workload.