DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has insisted the Government will cancel any contracts with Sheffield employment firm A4e if ‘systematic abuse’ allegations are proved.
The Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, said the allegations of fraud at the welfare-to-work company were being taken seriously.
But opposition MPs said A4e - whose chairman Emma Harrison stepped down from her leadership of the firm earlier this month - had been given new deals worth £30 million.
Fiona MacTaggart, Labour MP for Slough, said: “The Ministry of Justice has announced it had given two new contracts worth some £30 million of public money to A4e.
“This company has been under investigation by police, by the Department for Work and Pensions, by the Public Accounts Committee. Is the Government going to continue handing out public money to A4e?”
Mr Clegg replied: “You raise a serious issue. The police investigation into the allegations of fraud in A4e contracts were all contracts, of course, entered into by the previous government.
“We have now launched our own audit of existing contracts A4e has received from Government. If there is any evidence of systematic abuse we would end all contracts with A4e.”
Mr Clegg was also challenged on his support of the Government’s controversial health reforms.
Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said Mr Clegg ‘obviously thinks he is doing a stunning job’ on the NHS.
She asked: “Can you explain why you have failed to persuade doctors, nurses, midwives, paediatricians, physicians, physiotherapists and patients?”
Mr Clegg said: “Labour used to believe in reform. Now they believe in starving the NHS of cash.”