The Ministry of Justice has spent £3m on external legal advisers for its controversial plans to privatise most of the probation service.

Under its ‘transforming rehabilitation’ programme the government will contract 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) to provide rehabilitative services by 2015.  

Services are currently provided by 35 public sector probation trusts across England and Wales.

Jeremy Wright (pictured), junior justice minister, said magic circle firm Allen & Overy was appointed to provide advice on the programme, along with the department’s own legal teams.

‘The contract with Allen & Overy gives us access to a range of specialist and highly skilled legal advisers, but to date we have not used Queen’s Counsel to draft any part of the contractual suite,’ he said in a parliamentary response.

Costs for external legal advisers between April 2013 and January 2014 were £3m, he said. 

‘We use external advisers and consultants for complex projects where there is a strong business case and the specialist skills are not available in-house. This represents less than 1% of the annual value of what the new CRC contracts are worth.’ 

Last week a parliamentary report raised concerns about the speed at which the ministry is pursuing the outsourcing of its services, given the department’s track record in mishandling contracts. 

Wright said: ‘The cost of implementing these reforms are affordable within the context of the overall MoJ budget and our commitment to deliver annual savings of over £2bn by 2014-15.’