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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy has appointed Coopers & Lybrand to consider urgently the options for the future of HMSO, with a view to privatisation provided satisfactory arrangements can be made for the future provision of services to Parliament. The future of HMSO has been uncertain for too long and he is anxious to set in place quickly arrangements which will secure the long-term interests of the taxpayer as well as HMS0's staff and customers, among whom Parliament is particularly important. He believes that these interests are most likely to be secured by privatisation of all but a very small part of HMSO. Consultation is under way with the House authorities about the safeguards necessary to ensure the future provision of the services which Parliament receives from HMSO. He will be making an oral statement as soon as these consultations are sufficiently advanced, and he has received advice from his financial advisers and decided on the way forward.
The Government intend to sell Chessington Computer Centre as a single viable business in a way which will ensure that it retains its reputation for the provision of high quality services to Government departments and the wider public sector. Freedom from the constraints of operating within government will make Chessington better able to serve existing customers and to attract new customers in wider markets. My right honourable friend believes that this is the best way to secure the long-term interests of the taxpayer as well as those of the staff and customers of the business. He has appointed KPMG Corporate Finance to assist with the sale of Chessington.
Coopers & Lybrand have also been appointed to advise urgently on ways of increasing private sector involvement in the Occupational Health and Safety Agency, Recruitment and Assessment Services, the Central Office of Information and the Civil Service College. The aim is not only to secure savings for the taxpayer, but also to maintain the best interests of the Agencies' customers and staff.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The London Taxicard scheme is administered on behalf of those London Boroughs which participate in it through the London Accessible Transport Unit (LATU). The letting of the contract for the scheme, and the standards of service provided under the contract, are matters for LATU.
Lord Lucas: Government departments which have an interest in this charter are still considering carefully its implications for the United Kingdom. We hope to come to a decision soon. I will write to the noble Lord when a decision is reached and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
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