Third Reading

Part of Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 21st July 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 5:15 pm, 21st July 2015

My Lords, I shall speak also to government Amendments 12 and 13. I said on Report that I would have discussions with noble Lords about audit committees for combined authorities and, if appropriate, return at Third Reading. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, has had early sight of these amendments, which fulfil that commitment and require that a combined authority has an audit committee. I am grateful to noble Lords opposite for having brought this issue to light.

The audit committee will have an important role in providing independent and high-level assurance on the adequacy of internal controls and the integrity of financial management. While audit committees are not required by law in other local authorities, they are widely adopted and, given the particular structure of a combined authority, we can agree that it is appropriate for audit committees to be mandated in these cases.

The amendments also require a committee to have at least one independent person. The definition of “independent person” is to be specified by order. Effective audit committees are characterised by a membership that is objective and knowledgeable. The inclusion of at least one independent member will help ensure objectivity and the authority may also appoint independent members who will bring additional skills or expertise to the committee. I beg to move.