New Clause 3 - Comptroller and Auditor General prescribed persons

Local Audit and Accountability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 21st November 2013.

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‘(1) The Secretary of State shall by order make arrangements for the Comptroller and Auditor General to be added as a prescribed person for the purposes of the public interest disclosure provisions.’.—(Andy Sawford.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andy Sawford Andy Sawford Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I do not intend to delay the Committee for long on the clause, because we had a useful debate on schedule 11 and the disclosure of information at an earlier point in our proceedings, when we had tabled an amendment to allow the Comptroller and Auditor General to be a named person in the Bill for the purposes of disclosure of information. The Minister gave us an encouraging response that he would go away and look at the three particular additions that we had sought to make to schedule 11, paragraph 2, where we had suggested additions around the disclosure of information. We hope that the Minister might introduce those additions, which could include the Comptroller and Auditor General, on Report. I urge the Minister to acknowledge such an important point, which we have raised on various occasions.

The matter was also debated in the Lords when Lord McKenzie made a strong case for the amendment as a stand-alone amendment. We have rehearsed it in relation to schedule 11, so I will ask leave to withdraw the motion, although I would welcome any response from the Minister before doing so.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

Hopefully I can give the assurances that the hon. Gentleman needs. We do not believe that it is necessary to include the amendments in the Bill at this stage. The provisions relating to whistleblowing are set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 as amended  by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 1999, which we intend to amend.

The Government committed in our response to the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill and in the other place to make the Comptroller and Auditor General and local auditors prescribed persons. We intend to do that by amending the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 1999 to ensure that local auditors and the Comptroller and Auditor General are named as prescribed persons for whistleblowing purposes following the closure of the Audit Commission. Hopefully, that will provide the assurance that the hon. Gentleman seeks, and it may also reassure him about the concerns he raised about schedule 11, on the disclosure of information. I therefore hope he will withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.