HC Deb 13 May 1996 vol 277 cc636-7
35. Mr. Steen

To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission if he will increase the allocation of staff costs in respect of the operating budget of the National Audit Office. [27702]

Sir Peter Hordern

The National Audit Office estimate for 1996–97, approved by the Commission in January, provides for an increasing number of financial audits, for a rise in the level of regularity and propriety work and for sufficient value-for-money investigations to offer the Committee on Public Accounts a margin of choice in the subjects that it considers.

Mr. Steen

That was an impressive answer. However, the House should be aware that, as the National Audit Office aims to ensure that we get better value for money, as all the legislation we pass here is properly vetted and costed and as we have approved 7,850 statutory instruments since January 1994, it must be inevitable that we will have to increase even further the staff at the National Audit Office. As we pass more rules, regulations and Acts of Parliament, the number of staff, the amount of bureaucracy and the number of officials will rise sky high. Will my right hon. Friend comment on that?

Sir Peter Hordern

I do not agree with my hon. Friend. The National Audit Office is an example to every Department. It is increasing the volume of its work and effectiveness at lower cost—in not just real but cash terms. If every Department were to do the same as the NAO, which works on our behalf, the Government and the House would be a great deal better off.

Mr. Olner

If Departments really respect the view of the National Audit Office, how come the Government do not accept the views of the auditors in respect of Westminster city council?

Sir Peter Hordern

Westminster city council's accounts are audited by the Audit Commission, not the National Audit Office.