National Audit Office Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

National Audit Office

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Excerpts
Wednesday 1st July 2020

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

It gives me great pleasure to support the motion proposed by the Prime Minister to appoint Dame Fiona Reynolds, who, as he has highlighted, has had a distinguished career, particularly as head of the National Trust and, more recently, as Master of Emmanuel College. She is the first woman to hold this important position, and I also put on record my thanks to Lord Bichard, who will have given six years of service when he hands over the reins to Dame Fiona in January.

The NAO is crucial in holding the Government to account, safeguarding taxpayers’ money, and, increasingly, under the new Comptroller and Auditor General, Gareth Davies, learning to do better. So it is heartening that the Prime Minister and I agree on the importance of the NAO and the suitability of Dame Fiona to take up this role. Her considerable experience will be well played in the NAO. Of course, the Comptroller and Auditor General determines all the audit procedures, but she will have a pivotal role on the board in making sure that the organisation becomes as modern and sophisticated as it needs to be to deal with the challenges of the modern world. So I fully and wholeheartedly endorse her. This was the first virtual appointment and I have not yet met Dame Fiona, so I look forward to doing so when lockdown restrictions lift still further.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) - Hansard

I am delighted to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s motion. I declare an interest in this subject, because although I was not part of the selection process at all, Dame Fiona is a constituent of mine. I know her and have met her on a number of occasions. She will make an excellent candidate, for the reasons I am about to give—my right hon. Friend will be grateful to know that I will do so briefly. She has had a role in academia, recently being Master at Emmanuel College, having gained a first at Cambridge. For 10 years, she was well known as the director of the National Trust, building its membership from 10 million to 19 million. As the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said, she was part of government. In the Cabinet Office, she formed a new unit which brought the ideas of gender equality to a range of government initiatives.

As well as being in academia, government and non-governmental organisations, Dame Fiona has had a range of business appointments, with Wessex Water, the Grosvenor Estate, the BBC and John Lewis. She brings a wealth of experience to this job and she will bring an inquiring mind. She is a highly bright person who will be there to challenge and work with, on an excellent basis, our Comptroller and Auditor General, Gareth Davies. All in all, her appointment will be a benefit to this House, to the Government and to this country.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Hansard

The SNP too welcomes the appointment of Dame Fiona Reynolds to the role of chair of the National Audit Office. We appreciate the involvement of Caroline Gardner, as Auditor General for Scotland, in the appointment panel, which is good. We are sure that, given Dame Fiona’s previous role in the Council for National Parks, she will have a good ability to see the wood for the trees in holding the Government to account. I look forward to her doing so with her great skill and experience.