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The Government have cut the previous Government's profligate spending on consultancy. In the first six months of this financial year, consulting spend by the Cabinet Office fell by 42% compared with the trajectory for the previous year. In the first six months of this year, consulting spend right across central Government fell by £350 million-or more than 50%, so it has more than halved-compared with the same period last year.
I can only assume that the proper processes were followed, because this happened under the previous Government, when Mr Byrne was Minister for the Cabinet Office. Any suggestions of a conflict of interest arising from the position of the Deputy Prime Minister's wife are wholly misplaced, because the contract was placed before he was anywhere near government.
I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's robust support for this Government's change in direction from that taken by the Government of whom he was a member. We believe that the incontinent use of consultants is demeaning for civil servants, who would, in many cases, like to be doing this work and are very capable of doing it. [Interruption.]
Order. Far too many private conversations are taking place in the Chamber. This is very discourteous and it should end.