National Audit Office Staff

Oral Answers to Questions — Public Accounts Commission – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th February 1997.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East 12:00 am, 24th February 1997

To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission how many staff of the National Audit Office are employed in auditing expenditure relating to EU programmes. [15555]

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

The National Audit Office audits the majority of expenditure in the United Kingdom that is funded from the European Community budget. That work is done as part of the Comptroller and Auditor General's responsibility to audit the appropriation accounts of the 10 UK Departments and agencies through which most of those funds pass. It is not possible to identify separately the staff effort related solely to European Union expenditure in auditing those accounts.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

As the wonderful work done by the Court of Auditors in Europe is largely ignored by all the institutions, does my right hon. Friend think that there would be some merit in our Audit Commission producing an annual report to show the British people how the £6 week that every family paid last year for the net contribution was used? Perhaps the Audit Commission should also provide a special report on last year's breakthrough, when the EU spent more on the destruction of food than it had ever spent before.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

As my hon. Friend well knows, the Comptroller and Auditor General does not have powers to examine expenditure under European schemes in other EU countries. He may be interested to note that the Comptroller and Auditor General reported to Parliament last week on the report, "The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: Common Agriculture Policy: Fraud and Irregularity", which examined aspects of the use made by European agricultural guidance and guarantee fund expenditure. He will also be interested to know that there are plans to publish in early March the annual report of the European Court of Auditors and its statement of assurance, which will summarise its recent reports. He and I have always had an intense interest in that, and I am sure that he will find that report of interest.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

Did the report to which the right hon. Gentleman refers reach a conclusion about the cost to the average family of the common agricultural policy? Were the auditors satisfied about the way in which the money was spent?

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

The report was concerned with fraud and irregularity rather than the overall position, but I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman were to study it in detail he would see that it gives a broad perspective on that particular aspect of the common agricultural policy, which concerns many hon. Members.