HC Deb 08 November 1995 vol 265 c994W
Mr. Faber

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has for the Security Facilities Executive and the Buying Agency when Property Holdings is wound up next year. [42243]

Mr. Gummer

The Security Facilities Executive is an agency that provides security-related support services to central Government and other public sector and approved customers through four main businesses: the Government car service, the inter-despatch service, the custody service and the special services group. The Buying Agency acts as a purchasing agent for Government Departments and other public bodies using its combined purchasing power to secure discounts from suppliers for the benefit of the taxpayer.

These agencies will transfer to the Office of Public Service and will report to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1 January 1996, joining other agencies such as the Civil Service College, which also provide services to Government. Prior to this, a study will be commissioned to investigate the scope for more private sector involvement in the custody service, which employs around 700 guards to protect over 100 Government buildings in the London area. The study will take account of new factors since this business was last examined, in particular changes in the Government's security requirements. Any proposals will be designed to ensure that Government Departments and other customers in the wider public sector obtain maximum value for money and economy from this service. SAFE's other businesses will not be covered by this study.

I announced to the House on 31 January that Property Advisers to the Civil Estate was to be launched as an executive agency in April 1996 to undertake central co-ordination and advisory functions, following the Government decision, based on an efficiency scrutiny, that Departments should become responsible for owning and managing their own accommodation. It will co-ordinate Departments' activities in the property market; promote interdepartmental rationalisation of Government accommodation; provide Departments with advice and support on property management issues; and help Departments not having in-house property expertise to act as intelligent customers in the procurement of professional property advice. It has now been decided that when PACE is launched next April, it will be an executive agency of the Office of Public Service, reporting to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.