HC Deb 11 November 1996 vol 285 cc16-7
31. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission how many accountants are employed by the National Audit Office. [1336]

Sir Peter Hordern (Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission)

The National Audit Office employs 354 qualified accountants, 64 qualified accounting technicians and 98 staff who are currently training for professional accountancy qualifications. Those numbers are marginally different from those that a gave my hon. Friend on 13 May.

Mr. Marshall

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I suggest that some of the 500 or so people to whom he has referred might spend a little time analysing the substantial benefits to be had from compulsory competitive tendering, which Labour wants to get rid of. Is he aware that in Barnet, under the Lib-Lab pact, the contract for refuse collection has gone to an in-house bid although it costs £500,000 more?

Sir Peter Hordern

I am sure that the National Audit Office will continue to examine all ways to save public money and to increase efficiency. As far as I know, the Government do not intend to do away with competitive tendering. On the issue of a change of Government, I do not think that the National Audit Office could enter into unnecessary speculation on an unlikely hypothesis of that kind.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to draw the attention of the National Audit Office to the behaviour of a retiring Director of Franchising, who has managed to spend £2.25 million of taxpayers' money on success payments to two firms for privatisation consultations without any clear definition of what a success payment really is?

Sir Peter Hordern

I was not aware of that case. If the hon. Lady writes to me, I shall see that she gets a reply.

Sir Terence Higgins

In view of a motion which appears on the Order Paper, may I on my own behalf and, I am sure, on behalf of the members of the Public Accounts Commission and the House generally, express my appreciation to my right hon. Friend for the patient, skilful and efficient way in which he has discharged his obligations as Chairman of the Commission?