RegulationCorporate GovernanceThe corridors of power…

The corridors of power...

One of my great wishes in life is never to be called before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

MPs in this group go in for a particular line in sarcasm, as officials from
the Duchy of Cornwall discovered recently.

MPs were determined to roast the Prince of Wales over the amount of money
raked in from property and commercial interests.

Applying City-style standards, they accused the Prince of operating a private
fiefdom and called for greater openness in the Duchy’s accounts.

Their tone of sneering contempt left little to the imagination. Alan
Williams, Labour MP for Swansea West (and a PAC veteran), claimed to ‘keep a
stock of all the Duchy of Cornwall accounts by the bed’ in case he has trouble
falling asleep.

Edward Leigh MP, the committee chairman, called on the Treasury to review the
Duchy’s finances, noting: ‘As these arrangements have been in place for over 600
years, such a review would hardly be over-hasty.’ Children, children.

The PAC specialises in these gladiatorial maulings. Peter Davis, the former
lottery regulator, was grilled over his flights around America in a corporate
jet in the mid-1990s. Noting that he had travelled to the US by commercial
flight, one of the committee MPs remarked caustically: ‘I didn’t think you
swam.’

Mercifully, few company executives – let alone accountants – get summoned to
appear before the PAC. They simply have to put up with the usual sniping from
City analysts and corporate governance activists – not to mention the deranged
rantings of the loonies who turn up for the AGM.

Perhaps those crazed AGM shareholders should be thrown into a barge with the
PAC members and towed far out to sea. That would do us all a favour.

Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times

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