Oral PQ on PFI in schools.
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): The Minister will know that I strongly support the genuine transfer of risk to private bodies, but can he tell us the difference between shifting the Government‘s debt into public-private partnerships and Enron‘s accounting methods to shift its debt and hide it in offshore partnerships?
John Healey: The right hon. Gentleman does the PFI programme in schools a serious disservice in trying to make such links. There is no connection or comparison whatever with the methods that that company employed. He is right about shifting the balance of risk, which is key to PFI contracts and the ability to deliver value for money and cost reductions. Shifted risks include risks that the private sector bears in upfront costs until buildings are completed, and risks associated with serious systems and buildings failure during the contract, which is why many local authorities and schools regard the arrangement as a valuable way of bringing new capital finance into the school system.
7 February 2002 c1013