Edward Leigh MP

Edward Leigh MP (Conservative) MP for Gainsborough. Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. He is co-chairman of the Cornerstone Group of MPs dedicated to maintaining traditional Conservative values. He has a degree in Modern History from Durham University. He is a barrister specialising in arbitration and criminal law.

Contacts

Office: House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA Tel: 020 7219 6480 Email: edward.leigh.mp@parliament.uk

Issues

Civil Liberties

"Freedom is a gift of God. I am a Catholic, and I would maintain that Christianity lies at the height and the heart of European culture. However, like Voltaire, we must defend the right of people with whom we do not agree to speak out – the right of comedians to poke fun at religion and the right of humanists to question whether religion is right at all. Is not the central idea of Europe this: first, freedom; secondly, freedom; and thirdly, freedom? If we can conduct ourselves in that way, this debate will have achieved something." [1]

Discgate

Edward Leigh is the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. He is actively leading the committee in its investigation of HMRC, uncovering damaging e-mails between officials at the National Audit Office, which his committee oversees, and HMRC. The e-mails show HMRC sent the NAO some discs containing vast amounts of data on seven million families in receipt of child benefit because HMRC officials did not want to 'incur a cost' by extracting the details the Audit Office had requested for its routine checks. Leigh says that there are 'systemic failures' within the HMRC. The Public Accounts Committee findings are likely to be far more explosive than Poynter's - but they won't be delivered until the New Year.

Links

News

2007-12-13 - The Register - Brown quizzed on gov IT failures
Author: John Oates
Summary: Prime Minister Gordon Brown admitted this morning that the government has "a long way to go" to a coherent IT strategy. Asked by MP Edward Leigh about systemic failures at the HMRC, which led to the loss of two CDs containing the entire child benefit database, Brown said there was a difference between rules not being followed and failure of procedures and systems. He also said no one had lost any money.
2007-12-13 - Kable - Shared services threat to privacy, warns committee
Summary: Parliament's finance watchdog has warned the government's drive to centralise services could increase the risks to data security. Edward Leigh, chair of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, has raised concerns about the possible increased risk to data security posed by the collection of huge amounts of data into large government shared service centres. Speaking at a hearing of the committee on 12 December 2007, he asked the director general for Transformational Government, Alexis Cleveland: "If HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions are gathering ever greater amounts of data into centres, how can you reassure us that this will be kept safely?"
2007-11-29 - Kable - Watchdog highlights website weaknesses
Summary: The Directgov supersite has been labelled 'Not Me Gov' at a hearing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Edward Leigh MP, chair of the PAC, made the accusation at a hearing on the National Audit Office report,Government on the Internet, on 29 November 2007. He questioned the government's plan to reduce the number of websites with an increased emphasis on Directgov and Businesslink, and claimed the functionality of the former could be better. "I understand that the only thing you can do on Direct Gov is renew car tax, it's more like 'Not Me Gov'," he said. "It's not a very awe inspiring website is it when the only thing you can do is renew your car tax?" Leigh also suggested that the emphasis on just two sites could lay the ground for another IT disaster in two years time. ... Leigh asked why the government had allowed 10 years of uncoordinated growth, and why so few of these websites link to Directgov, the public services supersite.
2007-10-10 - eGov monitor - Identity and passport service: Introduction of ePassports - 49th PAC Report
Summary: Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said: “The introduction of the first generation of electronic passports (or ePassports) was an excellent example of successful project management and procurement by the Identity and Passport Service. The introduction from 2009 of second generation ePassports, digitally storing holders’ fingerprints as well as their photographs, will present an even more demanding implementation challenge." “The best manufacturer’s warranty which the Identity and Passport Service could get for the electronic chip embedded in the passport was for only two years, however – even though passports are valid for ten years. The public will want to be told just how durable the chip is and, if it stops working, who will pay for a replacement. The prospect of ePassport failures contributing to yet further delays at border controls is not an enticing one."
2007-02-27 - Committee of Public Accounts - Identity and passport service: introduction of ePassports
Summary: Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said: “The introduction of the first generation of electronic passports (or ePassports) was an excellent example of successful project management and procurement by the Identity and Passport Service. The introduction from 2009 of second generation ePassports, digitally storing holders’ fingerprints as well as their photographs, will present an even more demanding implementation challenge. “The best manufacturer’s warranty which the Identity and Passport Service could get for the electronic chip embedded in the passport was for only two years, however - even though passports are valid for ten years. The public will want to be told just how durable the chip is and, if it stops working, who will pay for a replacement. The prospect of ePassport failures contributing to yet further delays at border controls is not an enticing one. “Most of us are going to have to have both an ePassport and an identity card. The Home Office needs to explain why an ePassport could not serve both purposes. At the very least, the Identity and Passport Service should reduce areas of overlap as the identity card project progresses and make sure that the combined fee for the two documents is minimized.” Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 49th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Identity and Passport Service, examined how lessons learnt from the introduction of ePassports will be incorporated into future projects; the cost of authenticating applicants’ identities; passport fee trends; the measures being taken by the Identity and Passport Service to hold down passport fees; and working with others to reduce costs and improve border security. In 2006, to comply with the US Visa Waiver Programme and other international requirements and to strengthen border controls, the UK made a successful transition from digital to electronic passports (ePassports). An ePassport contains an electronic chip storing biographical data and a digital facial image of the passport holder. Further significant change is planned from 2009 with the advent of new second generation ePassports incorporating the fingerprints of the passport holder. Passport fees have risen ahead of inflation since September 2003 to fund ePassport technology and other projects intended to improve the security of the UK passport. Since October 2006, the adult passport fee of £66 has included around £6 paid by all applicants to fund from 2007 the introduction of interviews for all adult, first time passport applicants. From 2009 all passport applicants will have to attend in person to provide fingerprints for inclusion in second generation ePassports. The set-up cost of data collection, validation and storage necessary to introduce these changes will be substantial. During 2007 the Identity and Passport Service has been gradually introducing personal interviews at its 69 new interviewing offices for first time adult passport applicants. With the exception of those living in remote locations (where special arrangements will apply) at least one of the 69 offices is intended to be within an hour’s travel by public or private transport for 95% of the UK population. But elderly and disabled people may still face difficulties in making the journey. With the introduction of second generation ePassports, all applicants will need to attend a local office to give their fingerprints. The long term durability of the chip embedded in the ePassport book is unproven and there is public uncertainty about whether, if the chip breaks through normal use before the passport expires, the passport holder will need to fund the cost of a replacement
2007-10-09 - BBC News - MPs question new passport costs
Summary: MPs have questioned why British citizens will have to pay out for both an identity card and an ePassport - when both contain similar information. Similarities in production "should be reflected in the combined fee", the Commons public accounts committee said. ... Committee chairman Edward Leigh congratulated the Home Office's Identity and Passport Service (IPS) for bringing in the ePassport scheme on time and on budget. But he said concerns remained about the durability of the microchip in ePassports. He said: "The public will want to be told just how durable the chip is and, if it stops working, who will pay for a replacement. "The prospect of ePassport failures contributing to yet further delays at border controls is not an enticing one." Mr Leigh added: "The Home Office needs to explain why an ePassport could not serve both purposes. "At the very least, the Identity and Passport Service should reduce areas of overlap as the identity card project progresses and make sure that the combined fee for the two documents is minimized."
2007-10-09 - Kable - MPs slam employment agency IT
Summary: Poor IT is hampering efficiency at Jobcentre Plus, according to a Commons report. The Commons Public Accounts Committee found that many of the shortcomings in the IT system are simple but irritating for agency's jobs and benefits advisers: for example by requiring them to re-key identical information for every new customer, or by making it hard to print out the information they need. ... dward Leigh, chair of the committee, said: "It's up to Jobcentre Plus to give advisers the kind of working environment and support facilities - including an IT system - that makes life easier not harder - to enable them to increase their face-to-face time with customers. "The more time advisers can spend getting people into work, the greater the contribution they can make to saving public money."
2007-09-06 - Kable - Committee slams Defra over rural payments
Summary: Rushed testing of IT and poor management led to the failure of the single payments scheme for farmers, says a parliamentary report. The chair of the House of Commons public accounts committee has condemned the government for its failure to implement the single payments scheme to farmers effectively. Edward Leigh said that the implementation of the scheme was "a master class in bad decision making, poor planning, incomplete testing of IT systems, confused lines of responsibility, and a failure by the management team to face up to the unfolding crisis."
2007-07-05 - Kable - CSA IT "a turkey from day one"
Summary: The Child Support Agency computer system has cost millions and created chaos, but MPs remain sceptical about its replacement. A Parliamentary committee has concluded that reforms of the troubled Child Support Agency (CSA) have been "one of the greatest public administration disasters of recent times". ... Commenting as the committee published its report on 5 July 2007, chair Edward Leigh said: "The agency threw huge sums of money at a new IT system which was intended to underpin the reforms. "The Department for Work and Pensions never really knew what it was doing in dealing with the contractors EDS and the system was a turkey from day one." "Three years after it was introduced, it still had 500 defects and staff confidence has been seriously damaged."
2007-06-19 - Kable - Call to cut consultancy costs
Summary: MPs and unions have lambasted the government for spending £3bn on external advice in areas such as IT. ... "It is impossible to believe that the public are receiving anything like full value for money from this expenditure," said committee chair Edward Leigh. "Departments are often on the phone to consultants without first finding out whether their own in-house staff have the skills to do the job. Even worse, departments and the Office of Government Commerce do not know how much is being spent on consultancy."
2007-06-05 - The Guardian - Ministers 'not informed' of IT problems
Summary: The Commons public accounts committee (PAC) investigation found that one in five officials in charge of IT projects had never met the responsible minister, and a further 28% met their minister less than four times a year. ... The PAC's Tory chairman, Edward Leigh, said: "It's certainly no good putting someone in charge of the programme who lacks the experience and skills to get the best out of external contractors and stays in post only as long as it takes to get another civil service position." Mr Leigh said departments must learn from successful projects such as the payment modernisation programme and pension credit scheme.
2007-06-05 - Kable - PAC points to SRO shortcomings
Summary: Senior civil servants with poor experience and little time are threaten the success of critical technology enabled programmes. Key government ICT programmes are being put at risk because senior civil servants lack the experience to run them and often fail to brief ministers on progress and cost escalation. ... "It's certainly no good putting someone in charge of the programme who lacks the experience and skills to get the best out of external contractors and stays in post only as long as it takes to get another civil service position," said Edward Leigh, the committee chair. "The appointment of the official in charge must be on the basis that he or she is committed to staying the course and that performance and reward are linked to agreed targets and milestones." "The board of the department must also be fully engaged with the programme and have a crystal clear sense of what they want the outcome to be and how they are going to achieve it. Not least, there must be excellent flows of information with alarms ready to be triggered as risks to delivery become heightened."
2007-05-22 - Kable - NHS completes London roll out of Pacs
Summary: The Department of Health has announced that the digital Picture Archiving and Communications System (Pacs), a key part of the NHS National Programme for IT, has gone live in every hospital trust in London and will be available across England by 2008. ... The progress of Pacs provides a boost for the controversial National IT Programme. Last month a long-awaited report from Parliament's influential Committee of Public Accounts said that the success of the programme is precarious, with key projects running late and suppliers struggling to deliver. The committee's chair Edward Leigh said a question mark hung over the most "expensive health information technology project in history". But health minister Lord Hunt said that the projects such as Pacs and electronic prescriptions were already being used by clinicians and benefiting patients.
2007-05-18 - The Register - HMRC claims IT successes
Author: Mark Ballard
Summary: HM Revenue and Customs revealed today how joining up its IT systems has contributed to falling costs in the merged departments. ... "Billions of pounds...are still routinely overpaid to claimants. Very large amounts have to be written off ... Changes have been made to the system, but who will be confident that they will make any difference?" said committee chair Edward Leigh last week.
2007-05-09 - Kable - Watchdog slams tax credit system
Summary: Software upgrades and a redesigned e-portal have failed to convince the Public Accounts Committee that problems with tax credits can be solved. ... Committee chair Edward Leigh said: "Billions of pounds, far more than those who thought up the system ever envisaged, are still routinely overpaid to claimants. Very large amounts have to be written off. "Changes have been made to the system, but who will be confident that they will make any difference? HMRC seems incapable of mounting a credible and effective response to the flood of money being wasted in this way."
2007-04-17 - The Register - NPfIT condemned in MPs' scathing report
Author: Lucy Sherriff
Summary: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has issued a damning report into the NHS's overdue and over budget National Programme for IT (NPfIT). The group of MPs conclude that the system is late, suppliers are struggling to deliver, medical staff are sceptical of the entire project, and there is still no clear idea of how much it will cost. ... Committee of Public Accounts chairman MP Edward Leigh MP said: "Urgent remedial action is needed at the highest level if the long-term interests of NHS patients and taxpayers are to be protected. "The programme is not looking good. The electronic patient clinical record, which is central to the project, is already running two years late. The suppliers are struggling to deliver. Scepticism is rife among the NHS clinicians whose commitment to the programme is essential to its success. And, four years down the line, the costs and benefits for the local NHS are unclear."
2007-04-17 - Committee of Public Accounts - Department of Health: The National Programme for IT in the NHS
Summary: Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said: "There is a question mark hanging over the National Programme for IT, the most far-reaching and expensive health information technology project in history. Urgent remedial action is needed at the highest level if the long-term interests of NHS patients and taxpayers are to be protected." "The Programme is not looking good. The electronic patient clinical record, which is central to the project, is already running two years late. The suppliers are struggling to deliver. Scepticism is rife among the NHS clinicians whose commitment to the Programme is essential to its success. And, four years down the line, the costs and benefits for the local NHS are unclear." "Given that the total cost of this hugely ambitious project is expected to top £12 billion – and who can be confident that even this massive sum will not be surpassed? – the Department of Health is playing for high stakes indeed." "Resolute action at this stage by the leaders of the Programme can do much to diminish the risks. The Department must get a grip on what it and the NHS are spending. It must thrash out with its suppliers a robust delivery timetable in which everyone, including local NHS organisations, can have more confidence. It must also launch reviews of the ability of the suppliers and local service providers to deliver against their contracts." ... Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 20th Report of this Session which examined the progress made by the Department of Health in implementing the National Programme for IT in the NHS.
2007-03-20 - The Register - NPfIT delays plunge NHS trusts into the red
Summary: Delays in the implementation of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) have helped plunge some NHS trusts into the red, the public accounts committee report has revealed. ... Edward Leigh, chair of the committee, says: "NHS bodies running hefty deficits. And the cumulative deficit for all NHS trusts at the end of March 2006 had soared to over £1bn. On these measures, the prognosis for the financial health of the service is poor." "The transparency of the NHS financial reporting regime must be improved further to prevent deficits being hidden and to make sure the regime is being applied consistently to all bodies." "Without this kind of transparency, there can be no spur to improve the standard of financial management in all NHS bodies. There is no excuse for clinicians to distance themselves from money matters as if the quality of healthcare delivered by an organisation has nothing to do with whether it has to dig itself out of a deficit."
2007-02-27 - Committee of Public Accounts - HoC Committee of Public Accounts - Introduction of ePassports Video
2006-11-06 - The Register - DWP computers 'unreliable'
Summary: Staff performance at Department for Work and Pensions' contact centres is being damaged by problems with computer systems, says the Delivering effective services through contact centres report from MPs on the public accounts committee, published last week. ... Edward Leigh, Tory MP and chair of the committee, said: "Calls to a contact centre will in some cases be lengthy, but no one will tell you how much the call costs. The staff in contact centres are often drafted in from other parts of the DWP." "This can undermine the efficient running of the centres, especially where the staff's existing flexi-time contracts do not match up to contact centre hours." "And - stop me if you heard this before - the underlying IT system is complex and unreliable."
2006-06-28 - The Register - NHS IT charade re-played
Author: Mark Ballard
Summary: The £12.4bn National Programme for IT might not have been good value for money, said the National Audit Office on the publication of its report on the scheme only 10 days ago. ... Yet now the local NHS trusts have become a defence of NPfIT's "top down" approach to systems development - that is, consult users little and give them what you think they should want, or as close as you can get to it in the time given. When pressed on this approach by committee chairman Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, Sir Ian said that the development of NPfIT might have been done nationally but the implementation was being done locally. That's like saying you have a bespoke tailored suit when it's provided measured and cut, and all you have to do to finish the job is the stitching. All of these issues being examined by NPfIT would not be news to anyone who had acquainted themselves with advice laid down in numerous bibles of good practice for IT projects published around the turn of the millennium.
2006-02-07 - BBC - Warning over ePassport microchips
Summary: Microchips in Britain's new ePassports only have two-year warranties, a National Audit Office report says. They are so new, no-one knows how long they will last, or how the scanners reading them will work, the NAO said. Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh said the fact they had a two-year warranty, when passports were kept for 10 years, was "most worrying". ... Conservative MP Mr Leigh congratulated the Home Office on bringing the project in on time and on budget - the contract is thought to be worth £448m over 12 years.But he raised concerns about the warranty deal and added: "Many UK ports of entry are not yet fully equipped to deal with the new technology, raising the spectre of even more delays for travellers." "It is disturbing, if not surprising, that the two arms of the Home Office concerned with delivering and implementing this change failed to talk to each other in the planning stage."

References

  1. Edward Leigh Website

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