asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many suspense accounts are maintained by his Department besides that used to make interest free loans for the purchase of cars; what the function is of each such account; and how the cost is brought into account in financial documents available to Parliament.
658 suspense accounts are maintained by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office besides that used to make advances for the purchase of cars. Of these, 398 are operated for the routine funding of posts abroad and to record certain payments and receipts at these posts which cannot for the time being be carried to the Vote account; 54 are operated for transactions involving Commonwealth Governments and 71 for inter-departmental transactions involving other United Kingdom Government Departments and official organisations. The remaining 135 suspense accounts are maintained to cope with a wide range of ephemeral transactions, including deductions from salaries, etc., which are ultimately payable to other Departments or bodies—e.g., for income tax, national insurance contributions and voluntary deductions.
Car loans are the only interest-free loans which are made without specific provision for their issue in the Supply Estimates.
The total net amount of the balances in all these suspense accounts as at 31st March each year is recorded in the Assets and Liabilities Statement rendered by the Accounting Officer of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Comptroller and Auditor General with the annual Appropriation Accounts. The Assets and Liabilities Statement is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, but it is not the practice of the Exchequer and Audit Department to publish the Assets and Liabilities Statements of Government Departments.