HC Deb 27 March 1956 vol 550 cc2024-5
Mr. H. Nicholls

I beg to move, in page 6, line 46, to leave out from "and" to "certify" in line 3, page 7, and insert: the accounts of the Board for each financial year of the Board shall be audited by auditors to be appointed for that year by the Minister. (4) No person shall be qualified to be so appointed auditor unless he is a member of one or more of the following bodies:—

  • the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales;
  • the Society of Incorporated Accountants;
  • the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland;
  • the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants;
  • the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland;
any other body of accountants established in the United Kingdom and for the time being recognised for the purposes of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section one hundred and sixty-one of the Companies Act, 1948, by the Board of Trade. (5) As soon as may be after the accounts of the Board have been audited, the auditors shall transmit to the Minister copies of the statements of account together with their report thereon, and the Minister shall transmit a copy of the statements and of the report to the Comptroller and Auditor General; and the Comptroller and Auditor General shall examine the statements and report, and may inspect the accounts of the Board and any records relating thereto, and shall. The hon. Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger) referred to the Christmas present which he received. I hope that this Amendment will be looked upon as an Easter egg because again in this Amendment we are really meeting the point expressed by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends in Committee.

It will be remembered that we accepted an Amendment to secure that the auditing of the Board's transactions should be carried out by professional auditors and not by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. I said at the time that we accepted the general principle that the auditors should be private auditors and not the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but some doubt was expressed about the extent to which the Public Accounts Committee would be safeguarded if the Comptroller and Auditor-General could not even inspect the Board's accounts and records. We knew that the Department of the Comptroller and Auditor-General was in touch through the Customs and Excise Department, but it was thought that it ought to have a more direct contact, even though the auditing was being carried out by private auditors.

We were impressed by those arguments, and that is why we have suggested the additional paragraph in this Amendment. The effect will be to give specific authority to the Comptroller and Auditor General to inspect the accounts, even though they have been passed by the outside professional auditors. I hope that this Amendment will be accepted by both sides of the House, because it reflects the point of view that was expressed in Committee.

Mr. Willey

As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, we are very anxious to see that the position of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee are not prejudiced. We have studied the Amendment and we are fully satisfied that their rights are reserved. We appreciate again the action taken by the Government in this matter.

Amendment agreed to.