Public First

Cabinet Office written question – answered on 31st July 2020.

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Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, for what reason the titles (a) GOV COMMS EU EXIT PROG and (b) EU EXIT COMMS were used as cost codes for two contracts awarded to Public First Limited since the beginning of March 2020.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, for what reason a retrospective direct award letter was sent to Public First Limited on 5 June 2020 formalising contracts that had been awarded in March 2020.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, how many focus groups will be carried out under the contracts awarded to Public First Limited.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether the findings of the focus groups carried out under the contracts awarded to Public First Limited have been shared with other Government departments.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, if he will publish the findings of the work carried out under each contract awarded to Public First Limited.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, if he will publish all documentation, emails and correspondence relating to the award of the focus group contract to Public First.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, for what reason the focus group contract awarded to Public First was not put out for competitive tender.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, what the value was of each of the last 15 focus group contracts procured by the Government.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether the Prime Minister or any of his advisors have met with representatives of Public First in the last 12 months.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether (a) the Prime Minister and (b) his advisors were involved in the procurement of the focus group contract awarded to Public First.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether (a) the Prime Minister and (b) any of his advisors were required to sign off the award of the focus group contract to Public First.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

Further to the answer given by the Paymaster General on 16 July 2020, Public First was engaged by the Cabinet Office to test public opinion and reaction to government messaging including focus groups for COVID-19 research. This work has helped to understand public attitudes and behaviours to inform our vitally important public health messages and policies, and has enabled us to deliver a strong, national, cross-government communications campaign to support the UK’s response and recovery from the pandemic.

In the discharge of this activity it was necessary for Public First to meet with civil servants to report on the findings of the focus groups. Public First also provided on-site resource to support Number 10 communications. In line with the practice of successive administrations, details of internal discussions are not normally disclosed. Any Government announcements will be made in the usual way.

Cabinet Office publishes expenditure, including on research, on a rolling monthly basis, and details of its contracts on GOV.UK as part of routine government transparency arrangements. GOV COMMS EU EXIT PROG and EU EXIT COMMS were existing cost codes used to pay invoices relating to COVID-19 research within a reasonable period of time. These payments were subsequently journaled over to the COVID-19 cost centre once that was created.

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