Restoration and Renewal (Report of the Joint Committee)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 31st January 2018.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee 6:07 pm, 31st January 2018

It is a pleasure to follow so many erudite speeches, particularly that of Sir Edward Leigh. He is a former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and I have enormous respect for him, but I was puzzled to hear him say that he wanted quick action, but also that he did not want to make a decision tonight. He and I share a healthy scepticism of experts—someone does not get to chair the PAC without being able to challenge experts—and that is why the Committee considered the work of the Joint Committee of this House to assure ourselves and help to assure the House that its work was robust and thorough.

It is no accident that the Deputy Chair of that Committee, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, 13 Select Committee Chairs, my hon. Friend Chris Bryant and Sir Paul Beresford back my amendment (b) to motion 1. We regularly consider large projects and how they are managed. We routinely and regularly criticise Departments for their poor procurement, poor project management and poor contracting, and it is important that we get all that right. It is also important that we bottom out what we are trying to achieve right at the very beginning and that we work through the figures. We know that the Joint Committee did not draw up full and detailed costings, which would take a long time to get right, but its figures were robustly reached and were orders of magnitude of the cost. However, the costings are still pegged to 2014 prices, so let us not use them as though they are the actual figures. That is why further work needs to be done. It cannot be done unless we make a very clear decision tonight. That does not mean kicking it into the long grass; it means making a firm decision about the options. That is why I propose a decant, because we know that moving the project quickly, specifying it well and doing it over a short period of time will be a lot cheaper.