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My Lords, the opposition spokesmen have called for inquiries into the Carillion affair, but the Minister has pointed out that one or two inquiries are likely to take place anyway. However, perhaps I may suggest to him that the time has come for a thorough, independent inquiry into the whole PFI—private finance initiative—process.
This idea, I think, originated in Australia and it came to me when I was Chancellor 30-odd years ago. My Treasury officials were keen on it but I refused to have anything to do with it. Subsequently, my successors—particularly, but not exclusively, Mr Gordon Brown—were enthusiastically in favour of it. Its purpose, in the eyes of the Treasury officials who tried to persuade me to take it up, was that it enabled you, at least in the short term, to dress up considerable amounts of public expenditure and put them off the public sector balance sheet. That is not a good reason for adopting something which, in my judgment, does not give good value for money for the taxpayer, and it introduces a degree of moral hazard, which we see very much in the Carillion affair—and there have been other examples. It is important that we take stock at this juncture and decide whether the whole PFI scheme should be proceeded with further. We have now had enough evidence that it is not good value for money and therefore not sensible from the point of view of the taxpayer.