The Government continue to deliver on our commitment to get maximum value for taxpayers’ money in public spending. The Cabinet Office is one of the engines of efficiency in government. In the most recent financial year for which we have the data, the Cabinet Office, working with colleagues across Whitehall and the cross-Government functions, saved the British taxpayer £3.4 billion, a record we are proud of.
It is not just the lies by the former Prime Minister that have damaged trust in our politics; the contracts handed out to Tory friends and donors through VIP lanes did great damage too, yet the Government last week voted down attempts to shut down VIP lanes for good. No doubt Tory donors are rubbing their hands with glee, but with polls showing three quarters of the public are worried about corruption in Government, does the Minister not agree that the refusal to shut down VIP lanes for good will simply add to these grave concerns?
I am sure the Minister is aware of the recent report stating that up to £7 billion of taxpayers’ money is squandered on so-called woke projects, including an Arts Council programme on unlearning whiteness. My constituents would argue that this money is far better spent on frontline services such as our NHS. I am sure the Minister agrees, so will he update the House on what steps he is taking to eliminate such appalling waste and to ensure every penny of taxpayer money is well spent?
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point about the need for us to ensure every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent appropriately, and he will have heard or read the Health Secretary’s comments in March, when he wrote to the health community saying:
“I would ask that you, as a member of the wider health family, now review whether your organisation is getting value for money from your diversity and inclusion memberships and, if not, consider any steps that you could take to address that”.
Central London is a very expensive place in which to employ civil servants, and it is expensive for them to live in central London, so what are we doing to allow all parts of the United Kingdom to have the civil service based in their areas, particularly smaller towns, not just large ones, and across the UK—not just in the north, but across the whole of the UK?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. We are the Government who committed to relocating 22,000 civil servants from London to the regions by 2030, and we are making excellent progress on that. We have already achieved half that number, and the other day I was pleased to be in Sheffield opening our new policy unit, which brings people together, and not just entry-level civil servants, but the senior managers and decision makers who are going to inform the decisions that drive government in the future.
Has the Minister been looking at the evidence given by George Osborne and Oliver Letwin? I think they were here briefly on an old Etonian work experience scheme, but the evidence they have been giving is a great revelation about what went on in Cabinet and at the highest levels of Government Departments. Will he look and learn?
Are you standing, Jim, or not?
Am I standing? My goodness, does the Pope wear red socks?
On value for money, what recent discussions have there been with our European counterparts to ease the cost of living by removing the costly Northern Ireland protocol measures on admin and accountancy for small and medium-sized business, and will the hon. Gentleman undertake to resume discussions if they are not ongoing?
The Windsor framework made significant progress and took a substantial burden off businesses, but I believe conversations are ongoing and if the hon. Gentleman has any particular questions he would like to bring to my attention, I will be very happy to have a conversation with him.
Thank you; good morning, Mr Speaker.
I frequently stand at this Dispatch Box and ask the Minister about value for taxpayers’ money, because his Department is responsible for making sure that every penny is treated with the respect it deserves, especially during the cost of living crisis. With that in mind, can he give us an official estimate of the total cost of fraud to the UK across all sectors in 2022?
We are engaged in a constant battle against fraud. We do so with colleagues across Whitehall, and particularly in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury. I look forward to the right hon. Lady’s next question.
I thank the Minister for that non-answer, but the public deserve to know. While he ducks and dives the question, I have discovered the answer. At a conference in Portsmouth last week, the UK fraud costs measurement committee distributed hard copies of its new report with a fresh new estimate: £219 billion is lost each year as a result of fraud. That is equivalent to this year’s entire central Government running costs budget for health, defence and policing put together. The figure does not even include covid fraud. Can he tell me how much of that money he has clawed back?
We have established the Public Sector Fraud Authority to clamp down on fraud. As a former DWP Minister, I assure the right hon. Lady that this Government go after fraud wherever it is found. Every time we find new opportunities for fraud, we come forward with new means of clamping down on them. We are a Government committed to efficiency, which we are delivering. As the right hon. Lady will have heard me say in answer to the first question this morning, the Cabinet Office, in the most recent financial year for which figures are available, delivered £3.4 billion-worth of savings to the British taxpayer. That is work we will continue to do.