HC Deb 15 December 1999 vol 341 cc259-60
4. Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire)

What steps have been taken to improve the delivery of Government IT projects. [101545]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mr. Ian McCartney)

A major review of the handling of Government IT projects is under way, to identify the pillars that support successful IT projects and make sure that those are put in place in the future. Early work shows that those factors include a full assessment of the risks involved in a project, and clear plans for managing them; strong contingency plans; keeping the scale of a project manageable; making sure that both the supplier and the purchaser clearly understand the aims of the project, and their respective responsibilities; and building capacity for learning lessons from previous projects, both good and bad.

The review will ensure that we learn lessons from past projects, so that future systems run effectively and deliver value for money.

Mr. Todd

I thank my right hon. Friend for that full answer. He has taken out of my mouth many of the phrases connected with successful IT management. May I commend to him the remarks of the chief executive of the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, who also highlighted the lack of leadership skills in this area and the need to supplement IT skills in key Departments? That adds to my central point, which is that any project requires clear and accountable leadership. Does my right hon. Friend agree?

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend is right. The points that I listed were not mere words. They describe a process that will dramatically improve the way in which the public sector, and central Government in particular, will produce IT projects in the future. One of the key areas is the skills and knowledge necessary to devise a project, to ensure that it is manageable, and to negotiate with those who will supply the project. My hon. Friend's remarks are well targeted. I give him an assurance that when the Government produce their IT projects strategy in March, what he said will be included in that strategy.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Has the Minister had a chance to look into what happened in the Home Office in relation to the IT project for passports? He will know that that was specified and ordered under the present Government, and that rather than the organisation becoming more efficient, we are told that people will have to pay 30 per cent. extra for their passports to pay for the mess that the Government created. That must surely be investigated by the Cabinet Office and the lessons learned for other projects.

Mr. McCartney

We are prepared not only to learn lessons from what happened in the Passport Agency; part of my work is dealing with the previous Government's projects in 1995, 1996 and 1997, all of which I have to review. In fact, we have to go back as far as 1990 to resolve the problems left by the previous Government. I shall take no lessons from the hon. Gentleman about botched IT projects.