Leanne Wood: What discussions has the Minister had regarding private finance initiative projects in Wales?
The Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery (Andrew Davies): I have had none specifically on PFI projects, but I have had a number of discussions with my Cabinet colleagues, the Wales Trades Union Congress and others about making use of innovative funding approaches in Wales to complement our existing resources, as well as improving our technical expertise in a manner that is consistent with our existing policy.
Leanne Wood: Can you tell us what the thinking was behind the establishment of a new public-private partnership unit, five years after your predecessor, Sue Essex, wound up a similar unit? Do you agree that, at a time when the private sector has become dependent on state handouts, due in large part to its own recklessness and greed, Welsh public services would be exposed to unacceptable risk if anything were done to make them more dependent on private capital now? Furthermore, will you give an assurance that no existing public sector staff will be transferred, under any partnership deal, to either a private or a third sector organisation?
Andrew Davies: I want to make it absolutely clear that there is no change to our existing policy. However, as the Minister with responsibility for finance, I am determined that we will make the maximum and most effective use of our resources, particularly our capital resources. As we know as a result of the recent pre-budget report, it is a possibility that our capital allocation will be reduced substantially. Therefore, it is even more important that we make the maximum use of our resources. The public sector generally, across the UK, has not been good at using capital. In many cases, we do not have the skills and expertise required to make the best use of our capital expenditure, and there is a whole range of programmes, information communications and technology projects, and e-government and other projects where the public sector does not have the skills and expertise required. The idea behind setting up the partnership Wales unit, as I have called the public-private partnership unit, is to ensure that we have that expertise, and are able to deal with the private sector and other public sector bodies in a realistic way, ensuring that we make the maximum use of our resources. To recap, we have not changed our policy; however, it is about making the maximum use of the resources that may be at our disposal.