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David Taylor: I am grateful to the Minister for her answers so far, and I support much of what she has said. Does she recognise that a problem can occur, particularly among LEAs in the poorer areas of our country, where private finance initiatives are in place for the provision of education services? PFI contracts are so long and inflexible that the improvements that parents, staff and pupils might like to see in the school meals service cannot be incorporated in the delivery of that service.
I was just coming on to issues raised by hon. Friend around compulsory competitive tendering,
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best value and the impact of PFIs. He has made his views clear and I listened carefully to what he had to say. I hope that he will accept that the PFI is intended to deliver more cost-effective public services by involving the private sector more directly in provision. It has an important role to play in securing a modern educational infrastructure that is fit for the 21st century. It can bring better value for taxpayers' money by harnessing private sector expertise and innovation and by allocating risk to the partner best placed to manage it. It is not entirely without potential downsides