Compromise reached on BBC accounts

Link: Lords called on to back NAO audit of aunty

His proposals were revealed during a Lords debate on the Communications Bill as peers were about to vote in favour of a new clause giving Sir John Bourn and the National Audit Office full access to conduct value-for-money investigations.

Arts minister Baroness Blackstone said Lord Sharman had suggested arrangements similar to those he negotiated with the Treasury on how access to the accounts of quangos and PFI companies would operate in practice.

She gave no details, but told peers his proposals would have the support of the government, ‘provided we can satisfy ourselves on some of the details of the proposal’.

She said the arrangement would be put into effect ‘by way of an amendment to the BBC agreement’.

Tory Baroness Buscombe said the Sharman proposal was ‘certainly an important step in the right direction’ but ‘in our view does not go far enough’.

She revealed that part of the compromise involved the BBC audit committee, on the basis of a dialogue with the C&AG, contracting with Bourn – or another agency, if more suited – to carry out a programme of reviews over a number of years, reporting back to the audit committee.

She said the Tories ‘believe that the contracting party should be the NAO’ and ‘that the final veto as regards the subject for review should rest with the C&AG’.

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