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Departmental Financial Advisers

Volume 22: debated on Tuesday 20 April 1982

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asked the Prime Minister if, further to her reply to the hon. Member for West Lothian on 3 March, she will, subsequent to any further review, establish new criteria upon which appointments of financial advisers are made by Departments, so as to ensure more effective public accountability and parliamentary control.

Departments are already accountable to Parliament for public funds spent on the appointment of professional financial advisers. It is always in the Government's interest to obtain the best advice available. We have no plans to change the present arrangements.

Is this really the right time to go ahead with plans for the dismantling of the British National Oil Corporation?

We shall make the judgment at the precise moment we wish to do so. I am sure that it will be an excellent judgment.

Will my right hon. Friend look again at the proposal to appoint as an experiment half a dozen outside accountants to the new district health authorities and recognise that the problems that they face are urgent and that if there is to be outside financial help it should be on an extensive scale and not just on an experimental scale?

I shall pass on that suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend has made proposals to ensure that those authorities are properly accountable to Parliament, which they have not been in the past.

Will the Prime Minister tell us who is the financial adviser to the Government on the Falkland Islands operation, and when and how Parliament will be told of the cost of that operation?

I hardly think that that question is relevant to the one that I am discussing. I think that most people in this country will take the view that the Government take on that issue.