Backbench Business — House of Commons Administration and Savings Programme

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:50 pm on 8th November 2012.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley The Leader of the House of Commons 2:50 pm, 8th November 2012

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. There are options ahead of us, one of which would entail such a “decant”, as it has been called; the other of which would not. We have a great deal of work to do before we know which of them is the best option for this House to meet its responsibilities and for value-for-money purposes.

It has already been demonstrated that House staff are able to deliver excellent service in challenging times, and that their participation in the savings programme has been instrumental. It is axiomatic in any walk of life that if we want to deliver the best possible service, the people who are best equipped to do it are the people working in that service at the front line: they understand it; they can bring forward some of the best ideas for making it happen. The medium-term financial plan is about showing how the business improvement plans— my right hon. Friend Sir Alan Haselhurst further illustrated them—can achieve that. We should engage the staff fully, listen to them, and work with them. This is not about Members, intimate though we are with how the House works, deciding everything. It is about our working with the staff in challenging times, and recognising that we can achieve not just financial savings but a re-engineering—to use that unfortunate term—of the way in which we do our business.

I agree with Andrew Miller that staff in the Committee services and others will need to take a positive and constructive approach to new technologies and new ways of working. I think that many of them are already doing that, and that they will all make a great contribution in the future.

Let me finally say, on behalf of all of us on the House of Commons Commission, that this debate has been immensely helpful in enabling us to understand what response we should make to the Finance and Services Committee, and that we will take full account of all the points that have been raised. I find myself thinking of that famous remark by Sir Winston Churchill:

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”—[Hansard, 28 October 1943; Vol. 393, c. 403.]

It is tempting to think that very little should change in a building of this character, but change is inevitable, and I think that in this instance it will be positive.