Following the collapse of Carillion, Iain Duncan Smith calls for a regular capability review of companies engaged in large public contracts

15th January 2018

Following the statement on the collapse of Carillion, Iain Duncan Smith calls for better direct contract management in the public sector and also a regular capability review of companies that are engaged in large public contracts.

I commend my right hon. Friend for his swift and urgent action on this issue. I urge him to pay no attention whatsoever to the politicking coming from the Opposition Benches, because it was of course Labour Members who, when in government, drove the process of private sector involvement hard. They did so for a very good reason: they said that it brought expertise that does not exist in the public sector to the running of these kinds of contracts.

Nevertheless, as we look into these matters—I am sure there will be a review—we should bear in mind two elements that when I was a Minister it always struck me were missing in the public sector. The first is direct contract management on a very regular basis, the lack of which was often the reason why some of these contracts drifted. That needs to be looked at very specifically. Secondly, the Government—probably the Cabinet Office—might want to think about having some kind of capability to review regularly the situation for companies that are engaged in large public contracts, to see what their status is on a wider basis.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his suggestions. I note that the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), said today that his Committee is going to launch an inquiry into Government procurement. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) makes some important points about the need to have a look at how successive Governments have conducted the procurement process. I hope he will understand if I say that today, and in the immediate future, my wish is for Ministers and officials to focus above everything else on the continuity of the provision of public services and on doing all that we can to give help and reassurance to employees, subcontractors, suppliers and pension holders. There will be an occasion to return to some of the broader questions posed by my right hon. Friend.

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