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DEREGULATION BILL: CONTRACTING OUT PROVISIONS

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The contracting out provisions of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill would extend the scope for market testi...
The contracting out provisions of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill would extend the scope for market testing activities in central and local government by removing obstacles to the contracting out of statutory functions, claimed William Waldegrave, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on the publication of the Bill.

'The Competing for Quality initiative, designed to get the value for money for the taxpayer, has already reported savings of around £100 million to September 1993. It is plainly nonsense that some activities, such as payroll administration, can be considered as part of our Competing for Quality programme while others, such as civil service pensions, are barred from consideration by existing legislative provisions.'

The contracting out provisions are in Part II of the Bill. The Bill would allow Ministers to make an order specifying statutory functions which private sector contractors could then be authorised to carry out. Orders would be subject to affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament.

The effect of orders made under the proposed power would be to extend the 'Carltona principle', whereby the functions conferred on a Minister can generally be exercised by civil servants on the Minister's behalf, so that private sector contractors could also carry out such functions on behalf of Ministers, office-holders or local authorities.

Clause 62 allows certain office holders to delegate their functions to their staff and therefore come within the scope of an order made to facilitate contracting out. Further key provisions in the Bill offer significant safeguards to protect the interests of the citizen.

Clause 63 extends to contractors all restrictions governing the disclosure of information held in confidence by the Government, where it is necessary for a contractor to have access to restricted information to carry out a function. Clause 60 ensures the Minister, office holder or local authority remains accountable for functions when carried out by contractors in the same way as at present.

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