HC Deb 31 July 1957 vol 574 cc1243-4
23. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Postmaster-General the name of the firm of chartered accountants which he has called in to examine the Post Office accounts; when the report of its examination will be ready: and if it will be made available to the House.

Mr. Marples

The firm to which I referred is Messrs. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. Consultations are still in progress and I should not wish to restrict the form or content of their advice by undertaking to publish any documents that may be exchanged. I hope, however, that the results will be seen in future issues of the Post Office accounts.

Mr. Allaun

May I ask the Minister first of all why, if the Post Office is paying for this investigation, the results of it should not be revealed to the House of Commons; and secondly, may I ask the Prime Minister—[Interruption.]—

Mr. Ellis Smith

Not yet.

Mr. Allaun

I meant "may I ask the Postmaster-General" what area of the Post Office accounts will be covered by this examination?

Mr. Marples

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I do not think that it would help the firm in question if the report were published. I asked it if it would make this investigation and report direct to me. It never considered that the report would be published, otherwise it might have done differently. I did this on my own initiative and I hope to incorporate most of what is recommended in the actual accounts. I think that hon. Members in all parts of the House will realise, when they see the commercial accounts, what an improvement they are.

Mr. Ness Edwards

May I compliment the Postmaster-General on his initiative in this matter? These commercial accounts are extremely difficult to understand and they have always been a mystery in this House. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider publishing or making available to Members, even if it is only placed in the Library, the recommendations of the chartered accountants? If he does that he will assist the House.

Mr. Marples

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his complimentary remarks about my initiative. I realise that quite a number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen do not understand the commercial accounts. For that reason I called in the firm of chartered accountants.

Sir R. Jennings

As this investigation is being paid for by public money, why should not the report be published?

Mr. Marples

Because when I asked the chartered acountants for the recommendations they agreed, on the understanding that the report would be confidential.