Clause 58

Part of Statistics and Registration Service Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:45 pm on 25th January 2007.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 1:45 pm, 25th January 2007

I shall turn first to the questions asked by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. As I said in my opening remarks, I believe that the nearest funding parallels are the Electoral Commission and the National Audit Office. The parallels are not exact, but they are useful precedents, having something in common with what is proposed here.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether I could give specific examples of alleged political interference using the budget process. No, I do not have such examples and I made it clear that I was referring to the anxieties that people had expressed about the potential for such interference. My hon. Friends may come up with such examples, but I have not heard of any, although my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks is right to make it plain that the Treasury Committee and many people who gave evidence to it were very anxious about the issue. Again, it is a matter of perception; if people believe that there is potential for interference using the Treasury’s powers over the budget, it will diminish the strength of the Government’s proposed reforms.

I am grateful for the Minister’s comments, but he still has not responded to all the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks, particularly about what the board will do if it is not satisfied with its budget, how the negotiations will take place and who will speak up for the board in negotiating with the Treasury. The Minister says repeatedly that Parliament will have the strongest scrutiny role in respect of the new structures. I welcome the rhetoric but I cannot see how Parliament’s role will be different in that context to scrutiny of any other non-ministerial department.