HC Deb 24 June 2004 vol 422 c1450
13. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire)

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the departmental IT strategy in delivering flexible, high-quality and cost-effective computer systems in support of her Department's services; and if she will make a statement. [180218]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett)

An Office of Government Commerce review helped shape the strategy and the approach to implementation. Effective governance is in place to keep the strategy up to date and take implementation forward, and gateway reviews have been undertaken on major IT initiatives that are part of the strategy.

David Taylor

There is a sad inevitability that the strategy will put its faith in outsourcing despite all the evidence from failed large-scale Government IT projects. How confident is the Secretary of State that the legitimate interests of clients and staff will not be subjugated to the commercial priorities of the chosen IT supplier and that future Ministers and taxpayers will not be left picking up the pieces?

Margaret Beckett

I accept my hon. Friend's basic point entirely, in that the development of new IT strategies has a rich history of problems in both the private and public sectors. It is not clear to me that those are necessarily automatically related to outsourcing. There have probably been as many disasters when people have tried it in-house as from outsourcing. However, the Department is pursuing a rigorous process and we greatly needed improvement in our IT services. The process is being peer reviewed at every stage by the Office of Government Commerce and my hon. Friend had the opportunity to question the management side about the issue in the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee the other day. I assure him that we are mindful of our reliance on good IT and we have no intention of seeing our staff or the taxpayer lose out.