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Mr. Gardiner: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way on that point, because she had left the Chamber when I commented on the investigation of the national lottery. Although the Government had allowed access, Camelot had refused access. The Government must address situations similar to that; I trust that they will do so in Committee.

Miss Johnson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. I am aware of that issue; it is a legal one and is now close to resolution. I believe that the matter is being dealt with satisfactorily.

Dr. Palmer: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way yet again. Does she agree that there will be widespread dismay--in accounting and in much wider circles--if the proposals are delayed due to those relatively minor points?

Miss Johnson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. There would be considerable anxiety.

Underpinning everything is a strong audit framework in the public sector, which is stronger than that in the private sector. The work of the Audit Commission in local government goes well beyond normal private sector audits. Therefore, I see no circumstances in which the Comptroller and Auditor General would need such access rights and could not rely on the work of other auditors. Indeed, the danger with such suggestions is that some organisations will be audited by two separate bodies, and we would need to be very careful about that. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Minister is addressing the House, so I plead with it to come to order. Private conversations should be held outside the Chamber.

Miss Johnson: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) mentioned the Treasury discretion. The Treasury discretion to set up accounting rules is very far from unfettered. In fact, it will be more circumscribed under the proposed system than it is under the present system. Conservative Members have deliberately avoided that fact. We have tightened up the requirements under which the Treasury and everyone else will operate as a result of the Bill and the requirement to follow the generally accepted accounting practice--GAAP--and the discipline provided by the independent Financial Reporting Advisory Board means that the Treasury discretion to set accounting rules will be very limited under these proposals.

6 Dec 1999 : Column 653

Several hon. Members referred to what the Bill will cover. It will deliver everything that they say they would like to achieve. Resource accounts will follow generally accepted accounting practice, but they will introduce the best accounting practice to the Government's own accounts. That means that, in the fullness of time when the whole-of-Government accounts are introduced, the points made by the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) will be covered. It is wrong to think that anything will be left outside those arrangements.

Mr. Letwin: I am sorry to trouble the hon. Lady again, but does she really maintain that schools, hospitals and the great preponderance of roads in this country will not be left out?

Miss Johnson: They will not be left out when the whole-of-Government accounts system is introduced.

Mr. Letwin: When will that be?

Miss Johnson: It will be as progress is made on the other things. [Interruption.] Conservative Members may laugh, but I have the previous Government's White Paper entitled "Better Accounting for the Taxpayer's Money". It says:

Whole-of-Government accounts will follow. We are doing nothing more than the previous Government recommended in the first place.

Several hon. Members mentioned the money voted by Parliament and the scrutiny of all expenditure. All the money voted by Parliament will pass through a Department's book and can be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General for accuracy, regularity and propriety. When the money is ultimately spent by another public sector body, it will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, another public sector auditor or possibly by one of its contractors. The Public Audit Forum is playing an increasingly important role in ensuring that all public bodies are audited to the same standards and under the same procedures.

Mr. Rendel: The Economic Secretary keeps telling us that the Comptroller and Auditor General has all the powers that he needs, but does she accept that he does not believe that he has them?

Miss Johnson: People have identified an issue that relates to the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the National Audit Office. The fact is that the Bill does not concern those powers or access by the NAO to Government accounts. It concerns resource accounting and budgeting and there are many advantages to that.

Several hon. Members rose--

Miss Johnson: I must make progress, or I will not have the opportunity to deal with points raised by one or two other hon. Members.

6 Dec 1999 : Column 654

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) referred to the audit of departmental resource accounts. That is in progress, and as my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary said in his opening speech, the next memorandum to Parliament will report on progress and will include any Departments that have not passed trigger point 3. All that information will be forthcoming.

I come now to the advantages of the Bill and the hon. Member for Macclesfield's suggestion that there should be a Special Standing Committee. There has been a lot of synthetic fuss by Opposition Front-Bench Members. It is staggering that the shadow Chief Secretary has only recently arrived in the Chamber. It is remarkable that the Opposition amendment does not mention audit at all, despite the fact that the amendment was, no doubt, tabled after due consideration by the Opposition. Members of the Public Accounts Committee have, justifiably, been pursuing issues of concern to them, but I do not believe that Opposition Front-Bench Members are doing anything other than latching on to a respectable suggestion being made by those who have a respectable reason to make it.

As my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has said, we have listened very carefully. We have listened to the reasoned points made by right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, but we will not give way to the suggestion that there should be a Special Standing Committee. It is right to pursue the matter, and hon. Members have two vehicles for doing so. First, the Public Accounts Committee will do whatever it wants to do, and Ministers would be very wary of suggesting anything different.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Johnson: No, I regret that because time is short I will not give way.

Secondly, the Standing Committee will discuss the matter. I understand that no suggestion for a Special Standing Committee has been made through the usual channels.

Mr. Winterton: I have to say to the Economic Secretary that as the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, which is a Committee of this House, I am not answerable to the Opposition Front Bench, just as I am not answerable to the Government Front Bench. This is a proposal made by a House Committee to the Government because they failed to honour a commitment that they gave earlier in respect of the Bill.

Miss Johnson: The hon. Gentleman knows full well that there is a difference between the line that Opposition Front-Bench Members are pushing and the respectable suggestion that he has made, albeit during the debate, without thought beforehand and without going through the usual channels.

I shall now summarise the important aspects of the Bill. It is a very important Bill. It is one of the biggest ever reforms of the management of our country's public services, and I commend it to the House. It is a major milestone; it modernises the public sector and makes sure that we will make better use of the private sector. One of the real revolutions, as the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden pointed out, is the possibility

6 Dec 1999 : Column 655

that much more meaningful management information will be available to the public sector and, indeed, to Members of the House who scrutinise these matters.

The accountability and transparency that will be provided through resource accounting and budgeting are substantial improvements on the existing arrangements. The Bill had solid bipartisan support when it originated and again in the debate today. I hope that the fact that we have said that we are open to dialogue means that the support will continue into the Standing Committee.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 140, Noes 327.

Division No. 8
[9.59 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Randall, John
Robertson, Laurence
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Oliver Heald and
Mr. Peter Atkinson.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Bermingham, Gerald
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Mr. Mike Hall.

Question accordingly negatived.

6 Dec 1999 : Column 658

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 62 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).

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