National Audit Office

Oral Answers to Questions — Public Accounts Commission – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 5th March 2007.

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Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering 2:30 pm, 5th March 2007

What recent discussions have taken place within the Commission on revising the 8:1 target ratio of saving to expenditure for the National Audit Office.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams Labour, Swansea West

The NAO target of securing £8 in savings for every £1 funded by Parliament was set in 1999. The NAO has achieved that target in each year since then—it generated some £555 million in savings in 2005 alone. The Public Accounts Commission recently endorsed a proposal to increase the savings target to 9:1 from 2007. The NAO will therefore aim to secure additional savings of £74 million from its work in 2007.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

The NAO is clearly making a most effective contribution to the nation's finances. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that Select Committees other than the Public Accounts Committee could profitably make use of the NAO's good work?

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams Labour, Swansea West

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the support that he has always given to the NAO. The NAO is now involved in supplying secondees to the Select Committees, and it also provides briefings and evidence. At the moment, it is leading a five-yearly review, which I established, into the resources that are available to our Select Committees. In any one year, the NAO deals with nearly 100 inquiries from individual hon. Members. It is very approachable and responsive, although hon. Members must recognise that it cannot comment on policy and that it is there to analyse facts.

Photo of Andrew Love Andrew Love Labour, Edmonton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the problems is the difference between the savings proposed by the NAO and those that are delivered by the Departments concerned? Does he further agree that we need long-term strategy in those Departments in order to deliver the NAO's recommendations?

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams Labour, Swansea West

It could well be that if the recommendations were fully achieved by the Departments, the savings would be even greater, but the figures that I quoted are those that are actually achieved by the NAO at the moment.