Again, my hon. Friend points to the lack of accountability and the hotchpotch—the rushed contracts put together by PFI, which benefited somebody, but did not benefit our local authorities or our children, and they do not benefit the patients in hospitals.
There is no better example of the need for new clauses 14 and 15 than North Ayrshire Council in my constituency. This Labour-run council had a PFI process that was severely flawed and was uncovered by local journalist Campbell Martin. Some have even insisted that criminal activity was involved, since while the council appeared to have two bids for construction projects—therefore seeming to provide the genuine competition required by EU procurement rules—in fact, the evidence suggested that one of those bids was from a subsidiary of the other company submitting a bid, so there was actually no competition at all. The Labour council was made aware of this before the contracts were awarded, but awarded them regardless. In the opinion of one ex-detective, the evidence showed
“criminality from start to finish.”
Another former officer stated that a common law crime of forgery and uttering should have been pursued. Right there we see the need for more transparency. I for one would like to see more transparency on the tax arrangements of such companies, as this is very much in the interests of the UK’s public finances.
All this information relates to a public-private contract now costing taxpayers over £1 million every month in North Ayrshire. Add to that the schools that are crumbling across cities such as Edinburgh, and we have real questions about these PFI firms. For projects of a capital value of £4 billion in Scotland, we will repay £22 billion, with our schools spending 8% of their budgets on paying off these Labour PFI debts. Can we really allow any lack of transparency around the tax affairs of such companies?
It is absolutely essential that there is more transparency around how UK public finances finance public sector projects. The tax affairs of these companies and their wider financial affairs need to be open to scrutiny because they build or have built our public assets. I urge the Committee to support new clauses 14 and 15.