Part of Orders of the Day — Government Resources and Accounts Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 am on 29th February 2000.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 5:45 am, 29th February 2000

In the newly harmonious environment that we are enjoying, I can say that clause 9 governs the scope and content of whole of Government accounts. At the moment, the clause defines the scope of the accounts in terms of the bodies to be included. Accordingly, all items included in each body's own accounts would be included within whole of Government accounts.

There are, however, a number of areas of the Government's finances which are dealt with through separate funds, such as the national insurance fund and the social fund. Although specific Departments have responsibility for administering those funds, they are legally separate and so are accounted for separately. We would want to include such funds within whole of Government accounts. Unfortunately, they would not qualify as "bodies" under clause 9(1), and so at present could not be included within whole of Government accounts. The amendment addresses that issue.

Amendment No. 23 is purely technical. Amendment No. 24 introduces an important performance incentive into the consolidation process, allowing an individual official within each designated body to be given responsibility for preparing that body's consolidation pack, arranging for it to be audited and submitting it as directed.

On amendment No. 34, clause 27(3) is a transitional provision to allow the Treasury to collect consolidation information on a pilot basis from public sector bodies which will ultimately be within the scope of full public sector whole of Government accounts, but are outside the scope of the initial audited accounts for central Government.

The amendment extends the provision to allow the Treasury to require another Department to pilot the necessary consolidation procedures for public corporations or local authorities, to prepare for the extension of the scope of whole of Government accounts from central Government to the entire public sector.

I hope that the House will not accept amendments Nos. 6 and 7, as they would severely impair the efficiency of the consolidation process put in place by clause 10. They would remove the Treasury's right to require electronic data submission and to set deadlines for that, which would be a retrograde step.

Amendment No. 6 would also impose a requirement to publish consolidation pack information for a particular year, which would essentially duplicate information that the body is already required to publish in its annual accounts. That would result in unnecessary duplication and expense. I hope that the House will reject those amendments if the Opposition choose to press them to a Division.