HC Deb 16 May 1966 vol 728 cc1079-81

[Queen's Recommendation signified]

Considered in Committee.

[Sir ERIC FLETCHER in the Chair]

11.12 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Niall MacDermot)

I beg to move, That the rate of the salary which may be granted to the Comptroller and Auditor General under section 1 of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1957 be increased from £8,285 to £8,600 per annum, and the date from which, under subsection (3) of that section, the person now holding that Office is entitled to a salary at the said increased rate be 1st September 1965. It would be only respectful and courteous to the Comptroller and Auditor General that I should explain briefly what the Motion is about. This somewhat unusual Motion is due to the quite unusual and unique position in our Constitution of the Comptroller and Auditor General. He is an Officer of this House, and any alteration in his salary can only be effected by a Resolution of the House passed in Committee. Formerly it needed an Act of Parliament to alter his salary.

But these procedures and formalities are a mark of the independence of his office. Ever since it was set up, which is now just 100 years ago—this is the centenary year—his salary has been equal to that of the Head of a major Government Department. The occasion for this Order is that, following the Report of the Franks Committee and the reference of that Report to the Prices and Incomes Board, the salaries of higher civil servants were increased as from 1st September last. The Resolution, therefore, proposes an increase in line with that of a Permanent Under-Secretary, from £8,285 to £8,600, with effect from that date.

I am sure that any regrets that we may have about the need for these formalities are tempered by the knowledge that it gives us the opportunity to express once more the great debt which we owe to the Comptroller and Auditor General. I know that all who have served on the Public Accounts Committee—I am a somewhat titular member of that body—have the greatest gratitude for the thoroughness and skill with which the present holder of that office discharges its important duties.

This is the centenary year of the office. The Motion is not put forward as a birthday present, but it is only right to say that the year is perhaps being celebrated in a more significant way in that proposals are being made that we should appoint a Parliamentary Commissioner, another officer of the House, in a manner closely modelled on the precedent of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The success of the Public Accounts Committee, assisted by the Comptroller and Auditor General, has itself stimulated many new and interesting proposals, which are being discussed by hon. Members, for increasing the Select Committee procedure. All these things are, in their own way, a tribute to the work of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

As a member for three years of the Public Accounts Committee, I want to record the gratitude of all members of the Committee to the Comptroller and Auditor General and his staff.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be read Tomorrow.