Taking Stock – Name debate lulls copper to sleep.

MPs have won the battle to ensure National Audit Office chief Sir John Bourn retains his full title of ‘comptroller and auditor general’. He was in danger of being known as a mere ‘comptroller’ after a learned clerk in the parliamentary draftsman’s office decided to save type in the Resources and Accounts Bill. MPs, however, campaigned vigorously and saved the day – convincing economic secretary Melanie Johnson, who has stonewalled against most heavyweight amendments to the Bill, that traditions should be kept. She announced to the committee dealing with the legislation: ‘I appreciate that this is a sensitive and important matter, and we are of course happy to ensure that all such references use the full and proper title.’ The campaign provoked Liberal Democrat MP Edward Davey to elaborate on the history, claiming the office could be traced back to 1314, when the post of auditor of the exchequer was first established. He said it was 520 years later – in 1834 – that the office of comptroller general of the exchequer was established. The two functions were merged 32 years later. Davey was wont to continue, but he was interrupted by chairman John Butterfill, who was ‘not sure that we need to delve more deeply into that history, fascinating though it is’. An on-duty policeman was rather more direct in his approach to the debate – he fell fast asleep.

Related reading