Leaving the EU: Value-for-money Scrutiny

Oral Answers to Questions — Public Accounts Commission – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th April 2017.

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Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall 12:00 am, 20th April 2017

What strategic plan the NAO has adopted to ensure value-for-money scrutiny of policies adopted as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I assure my hon. Friend that, among the many opportunities provided by Brexit, there is a chance to revise the National Audit Office’s work programme. In fact, it is determined by the Comptroller and Auditor General and is regularly revised. Taking back control and leaving the EU will be a major task for Departments, but of course some Departments will be more affected by Brexit than others. The NAO is keeping in close touch with all Departments as they make their Brexit preparations. That is likely to mean additional work for the NAO, not least the audit of the new Department for Exiting the European Union.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

Will the NAO audit the settlement with the EU?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Eventually that will indeed be a matter for the NAO. We are currently at a very early stage of our work: we are simply ensuring that all Departments, particularly the Department for Exiting European Union, have their tackle in order for this monumental task. I am sure that all Government Departments will do it most efficiently.

Photo of Phil Boswell Phil Boswell Scottish National Party, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I should declare an interest, as I sit on both the Public Accounts Committee and the Commission itself. Further to the question of Mrs Murray, I asked the Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office what concerns he had about the additional workload on his Department as a result of Brexit. He has many concerns, as intimated by Sir Edward Leigh, but said that he needs to know the details of the Brexit deal on the table before he can properly ascertain the impact. Is the hon. Gentleman confident that we will know the detail of this Brexit deal in 18 months’ time?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

The hon. Gentleman is leading me astray. As Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, which is charged with the budget of the National Audit Office and its work programme, I am not sure whether I am qualified to comment on the nature of the negotiations. I can give an assurance that the Comptroller and Auditor General believes that that is now a fundamental and really important part of his work. There is so much that could go wrong with efficiency in Government Departments in this task, and we will be keeping a beady eye on matters. With the hon. Gentleman’s help on the Commission, we will ensure that the Comptroller and Auditor General has adequate resources to ensure that the interests of taxpayers are protected.