HC Deb 24 July 1940 vol 363 cc809-10
56. Mr. Stokes

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that inconvenience and dislocation of work have been caused by the visits of accountants from more than one purchasing Department to the same firm; and whether steps will be taken to avoid this overlapping in future?

Mr. H. Morrison

Yes, Sir. With the great increase in the demands of the Services, there is danger of overlapping by the accountants of purchasing Departments who were concerned with the costs of the same firms. On becoming aware that overlapping had in fact occurred in some instances, I caused steps to be taken which should eliminate duplication of visits by accountants in future. It has now been arranged that the Department principally concerned with a firm's costs will investigate them for other Departments as well as for itself. This procedure has already been agreed to by the Supply Departments concerned with the needs of the armed Forces, and other Departments of His Majesty's Government which are likely to place contracts necessitating costings investigation are being invited to co-operate. I may add that it is hoped to diminish the necessity for visits by departmental accountants to investigate firms' costs by utilising the services of the firms' own auditors. This measure, however, is at present in the experimental stage, but if it proves satisfactory it will be extended. The use of the firms' own auditors will not, of course, affect the Department's right to make their own investigation subsequently, should this be considered necessary, but it is hoped that the report of the firms' auditors will in the great majority of cases be sufficient without further check.

Mr. Stokes

Does the Minister mean that in cases where firms are willing to volunteer that their own auditors will render an independent certificate, he will discontinue the visits of costs accountants, except as a check?

Mr. Morrison

Obviously, the Department must form its own opinion as to the merits of a particular firm and auditor, but it is desired in most cases to do what the hon. Member suggests, though we must reserve the right in any case of making a check and investigation.