UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Privateers back all-party group, so where's the real scrutiny of outsourcing?

Last week saw the launch of a new All Party Parliamentary Group on Outsourcing and Shared Services, chaired by Conservative MP Bob Blackman along with Labour vice-chairs Siobhain McDonagh and Tom Blenkinsop. "As more organisations look to benefit from outsourcing and sharing services, it is vital to learn from past experiences: what had worked and what has not", said Blackman. "We are keen to learn from those experienced in outsourcing, on all sides of the relationship - buyers, suppliers and officials."

The initiative was particularly welcomed by the National Outsourcing Association, a lobbying body for the outsourcing industry that includes Atos, Fujitsu, IBM, KPMG, and Logica among its 'premier members'. This is perhaps not surprising, as the House of Commons Register of Members' Financial Interests reveals that 'secretariat services' for the group will be provided by a private consultancy, Butler Kelly Ltd, 'on behalf of its client, National Outsourcing Association'.

The creation and sponsorship of ‘Parliamentary Groups’ is a well-established but still little recognised technique of Westminster lobbyists that The Guardian, among others, have repeatedly sought to highlight, most recently an investigation in February this year which revealed that through this device “more than £1.6m was channelled to MPs and lords in last year by corporations and interest groups”.

It seems we can't rely on parliament for the searching and impartial scrutiny of the growing private “public services industry” that UNISON has long called for.