HC Deb 25 February 2002 vol 380 c440
37. Mr. David Rendel (Newbury)

What proposals he has to request an increase in the budget of the National Audit Office to take account of the recommendations of the Sharman report. [34267]

Mr. Alan Williams

The extent of any increase in the budget of the National Audit Office to take account of the Sharman report will depend on the Government's response to the recommendations. It is now 12 months since Lord Sharman reported. I understand that the Government have been in extensive discussions with the NAO about the practical arrangements that the Government believe are needed to accompany Lord Sharman's recommendations. Any cost implications will be reflected in the annual corporate plan that will be submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the summer. The Commission will consider that report before the summer recess.

Mr. Rendel

Does the Chairman agree with me that 12 months is an intolerably long time to wait for these recommendations to be put into place? They should have been put into place before now. What assurances does the right hon. Gentleman have that they will be put into place in the near future?

Mr. Williams

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that 12 months seems to be an abnormally long time. We must hope that it is justified by a favourable reception. If it is, we would want that accompanied by a guarantee of early implementation.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

Does the Chairman agree that it is vital that the Government accept all the recommendations of the Sharman report? In particular, it is important that we make progress to ensure that the BBC comes under full audit by the House. After all, the BBC effectively imposes a poll tax on virtually every member of the population. The House should have the right to hold the BBC to account.

Mr. Williams

I agree with the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. There are many extremely important elements in the Sharman report, which would extend considerably Parliament's power of scrutiny. We want full implementation and early implementation. I hope that we may get a response from the Government in March.