HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 c502W
Mrs. Roe

To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps the House of Commons has taken following the judgment of the High Court in the case of Harmonv. Corporate Officer of the House of Commons. [119804]

Mr. Kirkwood

On 28 October 1999, His Honour Judge Lloyd QC gave judgment on liability in this action, which was brought by an unsuccessful tenderer for the fenestration contract for Portcullis House. The judge held that the Corporate Officer, on behalf of the House, was liable to Harmon for breach of the Public Works Contracts Regulations 1991, of European law and implied contract. The action is now continuing for the purpose of assessing the amount of the damages.

Concerned by the judgment, the House of Commons Commission asked the Clerk of the House to arrange an independent inquiry. On 17 January 2000, the Clerk accordingly appointed Sir Thomas Legg KCB QC, a former Permanent Secretary of the Lord Chancellor's Department, and Mr. Peter Bosworth, a consultant specialising in project management, to consider the judgment in the case, to inquire into the circumstances which led to it, and to advise him, and through him the Commission, on any action to be taken, including any changes in the structure and practices of the Parliamentary Works Directorate.

Sir Thomas and Mr. Bosworth completed their inquiry, and submitted their report, on 21 March 2000. The action is still sub judice but I can tell hon. Members that the inquiry concluded in the first place that serious mistakes were made in the handling of the fenestration contract, which exposed the House to liability; and secondly that in future major projects the Parliamentary Works Directorate should establish more clearly: (a) the roles and responsibilities of key members of the project team; (b) a project management process to include guidelines and control systems; and (c) lines of governance within a culture of professional and technical support; and that these recommendations should be taken into account in the current review of the Parliamentary Works Directorate.

The Commission considered the report of the inquiry on 10 April and accepted its conclusions.