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Draft Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 (Audit of Public Bodies) Order 2017

Debated on Tuesday 12 December 2017

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Ian Paisley

Cryer, John (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)

Evans, Chris (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op)

† Fernandes, Suella (Fareham) (Con)

† Hart, Simon (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con)

† Jones, Andrew (Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury)

† Knight, Sir Greg (East Yorkshire) (Con)

† Lee, Ms Karen (Lincoln) (Lab)

Mahmood, Shabana (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab)

Reynolds, Jonathan (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op)

Rimmer, Ms Marie (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab)

† Smith, Jeff (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)

† Stevenson, John (Carlisle) (Con)

† Stuart, Graham (Beverley and Holderness) (Con)

† Swire, Sir Hugo (East Devon) (Con)

† Thomas, Derek (St Ives) (Con)

† Whittingdale, Mr John (Maldon) (Con)

† Wilson, Sammy (East Antrim) (DUP)

Sean Kinsey, Laura Tiley, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):

Dowd, Peter (Bootle) (Lab)

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 12 December 2017

[Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Draft Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 (Audit of Public Bodies) Order 2017

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 (Audit of Public Bodies) Order 2017.

The draft order was laid before the House on 11 September this year under the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000. It requires eight new public bodies to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Two of those—the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and the housing ombudsman—are central bodies, while the remaining six are constituted as companies. The eight bodies all agree to the amendment, as it moves them to the same basis as all other public bodies. The draft order also removes from auditing 61 public bodies and companies because they have ceased operation and are therefore no longer subject to public audit.

In conclusion, the proposals in the draft order confirm the Government’s commitment to achieve consistency in the public audit arrangements for public bodies, which provides a net gain for both Parliament and the public. This is part of a regular process of updating the list of bodies to be audited, which was last updated in 2012. I commend the draft order to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley, and to speak this afternoon. As the Exchequer Secretary said, this measure tidies up the process of public audit for a number of public bodies that no longer exist and brings new bodies into purview. I understand that the Potato Council is one of the victims that has been peeled off to form part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

I did keep my eyes peeled for this particular issue. I notice there is also one spec-tater in the Gallery.

The Opposition support the order and measures of this nature, but I want to reiterate the importance of transparency and value for money in all our public bodies. The National Audit Office says that its work led to audited savings of £1.21 billion in 2015, which it estimated was its highest level of financial savings to the taxpayer to date, equivalent to £19 saved for every £1 spent. We have to ensure that public auditors have the independence and resources to carry out their job effectively, therefore guaranteeing strong governance.

However, the NAO’s own statement of accounts says that in real terms its net resources are expected to decline by 15% between 2012-13 and 2019-20. While the NAO has made impressive progress in becoming cost-efficient, can the Minister confirm that in future it will receive the level of resources it needs to continue with its high standards of public audit? I hope that was crisp enough for you, Mr Paisley.

Given that the list of bodies includes the Home-Grown Cereals Authority, the Milk Development Council and the Meat and Livestock Commission, we should be grateful that we have not had more hideous puns from the shadow Minister. I am grateful for the Opposition’s support for the order, and I of course recognise that the work of the auditor teams up and down the country is very valuable. They do indeed have the resources they need, and we have a very positive financial settlement for them.

Can the Minister tell the Committee whether the measure applies to Scotland and Northern Ireland? Would it make any difference if one of the bodies mentioned in article 4 were to move to Scotland or Northern Ireland?

This is a UK-wide measure; it is a UK body. I commend the draft order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.