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.
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.
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.