Taking Stock - Rude awakening for Committee members.
Commons select meetings can try the intellectual endurance of even the most gifted business people. The questioning, at times aggressive, often bordering on the downright hostile, is usually enough to hold the attention, however. That is until Elisabeth Astall, partner at Andersen Consulting, appeared before the venerable Public Accounts Committee to answer questions on a new computer system her firm is installing for the National Insurance Fund. Charles Wardle, Tory MP, was on his horse and determined to get some straight answers. Unfortunately when he bounced a question first intended for Nick Montagu, head of the Revenue, to Astall she froze. ‘Eh, sorry?’ she said. Wardle was beside himself, declaiming he was ‘very disappointed’ that Astall was not listening because people could ‘usually’ hear his voice. Little did he know that he had probably woken half the members of the committee with his fury.