PAC 'overstepping remit' in row over 1994 Scottish Chinook helicopter
A senior Labour committee chairman has questioned the future of the Commons Public Accounts Committee as the row over the RAF’s worst ever peacetime disaster raged on.
Defence Committee chairman Bruce George lashed out over the PAC’s report challenging the RAF’s ‘gross negligence’ verdict against the two pilots of the Chinook Mark 2 helicopter which crashed into the Mull of Kintyre six years ago killing all 29 aboard.
George said in a statement: ‘Perhaps this example of the PAC overstepping its remit and drawing ill-founded conclusions about matters which are not its concern, suggests the PAC has run its historical course.
‘It should, be quietly put to sleep, and the resources of the National Audit Office put at the disposal of the specialist departmental select committees, which have the expertise and time to use those resources properly.’ His attack followed rumblings of discontent which have built up among select committees shadowing government departments over their lack of staff resources compared with the PAC, supported by the NAO.
The Treasury has secured victories in the Commons and the Lords over attempts by the PAC to widen the remit of the NAO in the legislation underpinning the change from cash appropriation accounts to resource accounts.
PAC chairman, David Davis, who issued a statement calling on the Ministry of Defence to ‘set aside their unsustainable finding’, brushed aside Mr George’s attack.
He said he noted George’s comments were issued not as Defence Committee chairman but as a back-bench MP.
He said: ‘He has every right to express his opinions, however weak the basis, but this just reinforces my view that the PAC is doing its job.’ He said the PAC did have enormous resources, ‘but this episode demonstrates just why we have them.’
Davis said before the report was published the Commons authorities confirmed it was within the remit of the PAC to question a #140m modification to a defence equipment which went badly wrong.