As you would anticipate, Mr Speaker, we do not feel that this is simply an ideological choice between the private and the public sector. There are things that we can learn from the private sector. There have been some significant improvements in the way that services are delivered and in IT. We must also remember that this is not just a question of the private sector. In certain areas, we are working with local authorities and the voluntary sector.
To address the specific challenges that the hon. Gentleman raised, he pointed out that the frequency rate of reoffending has gone up, but the binary rate of reoffending has in fact gone down through the course of these programmes. On the question of cost, it is true that more money has gone in, but it is still much less money than anticipated. Broadly speaking, we were anticipating that we would spend about £3 billion over the course of the contract. The companies committed to spend about £1.8 billion and the Government put in an additional £400 million. That still leaves us spending perhaps £700 million—something of that sort—less than we anticipated. So the public have spent less money than they expected to over the course of this programme.
The Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company is a good provider and we are confident it can step in successfully, but we also have the national probation service working with it to ensure that it operates well in the Working Links areas.
On the broader issue that the hon. Gentleman raised about whether we have looked carefully at the lessons, we absolutely have. As I explained, we will make absolutely sure that we look very carefully at the consultation requirements and that anything we do in the future carefully learns those lessons, de-risks, focuses on quality, improves performance and protects the public.