HL Deb 23 March 2000 vol 611 cc488-90

8.39 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 3rd March be approved [12th Report front the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this order is a technical measure made necessary by the new audit arrangements in Scotland. The Scotland Act 1998 required the Scottish Parliament to legislate setting out detailed arrangements for auditing the accounts of the Scottish Executive and other public bodies in Scotland; and for conducting value-for-money studies into how these bodies have used their resources. That Act also set up the office of Auditor General for Scotland and transferred various functions of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Detailed arrangements for conducting audits and value-for-money studies were, however, for the Scottish Parliament to enact.

It has now done so through the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 which received Royal Assent on 17th January this year. Among its many facets, this Act puts in place arrangements for the establishment of a unified public audit service in Scotland called Audit Scotland. This order makes provision consequential on the Act, and in particular provides for the transfer of about 40 staff, plus certain property and liabilities from the National Audit Office in Scotland to Audit Scotland on 1st April this year.

On 1st April the Auditor General for Scotland will take over from the Comptroller and Auditor General responsibility for audit and value-for-money studies in relation to the Scottish Administration and other devolved Scottish bodies. In connection with this, NAO staff employed, and property or liabilities held in connection with these responsibilities, should also transfer to Audit Scotland.

Personnel currently working for both the National Audit Office in Scotland and the Accounts Commission will staff Audit Scotland, the new unified Scottish public audit service. Audit Scotland's main role will be to support the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission in their duties of scrutinising the financial effectiveness of both local and central government.

The Accounts Commission is a devolved body and so the transfer of staff and other rights and liabilities from the Accounts Commission to Audit Scotland is provided for in the Act of the Scottish Parliament.

However, the NAO is a body established under UK legislation, and so this order is needed to transfer NAO staff, property and liabilities.

The order makes provision for the transfer of NAO staff in Edinburgh, and the rights and liabilities of the Comptroller and Auditor General to Audit Scotland with effect from 1st April 2000. The property referred to does not, however, include the premises presently occupied by the NAO in Edinburgh.

Under the order, staff transferred from the NAO will be employed by Audit Scotland on terms and conditions at least equal to those enjoyed while employed by the NAO. The transferred staff can also continue to participate in the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme.

I shall close by explaining that the order is largely a technical but necessary measure providing for the smooth introduction of the new audit arrangements made necessary by the Scotland Act 1998. On this basis, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to support the order. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 2nd March be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale.)

The Earl of Courtown

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for her exact description of this order, which we support.

On Question Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at seventeen minutes before nine o'clock.