- Public Accounts Committee (United Kingdom)
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) (strictly, the Committee of Public Accounts) is a select committee of the British House of Commons. It is responsible for overseeing government expenditures to ensure they are effective and honest. The PAC is seen as a crucial mechanism for ensuring transparency and accountability in government financial operations, having been described by Professor Peter Hennessy as "the queen of the select committees...[which]...by its very existence exert[s] a cleansing effect in all government departments."
The recommendation for the creation of a committee to oversee government accounts was first put forward in 1857 by a small group of interested Members of Parliament led by Sir Francis Bearing.
The structure and function of the PAC date back to reforms initiated by William Ewart Gladstone, when he was British Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1860s. The first Public Accounts Committee was established in 1861 by a resolution of the British House of Commons:
There shall be a standing committee designated "The Committee of Public Accounts"; for the examination of the Accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by Parliament to meet the Public Expenditure, to consist of nine members, who shall be nominated at the commencement of every Session, and of whom five shall be a quorum. 31 March 1862.
The form has since been replicated in virtually all Commonwealth of Nations and many non-Commonwealth countries.
A minister from Her Majesty's Treasury sits on the committee but, by convention, does not attend hearings.
The Committee is assisted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), who is a permanent witness at its hearings, along with his staff of the National Audit Office, who provide briefings on each report and assist in the preparation of the Committee's own reports.
As of 31 October 2011, the members of the committee are as follows:
Member Party Constituency Rt Hon. Margaret Hodge MP (Chair) Labour Barking Richard Bacon MP Conservative South Norfolk Stephen Barclay MP Conservative North East Cambridgeshire Meg Hillier MP Labour Hackney South and Shoreditch Jackie Doyle-Price MP Conservative Thurrock Matthew Hancock MP Conservative West Suffolk Chris Heaton-Harris MP Conservative Daventry Jo Johnson MP Conservative Orpington Fiona Mactaggart MP Labour Slough Austin Mitchell MP Labour Great Grimsby Chloe Smith MP1 Conservative Norwich North Nick Smith MP Labour Blaenau Gwent Ian Swales MP Liberal Democrat Redcar James Wharton MP Conservative Stockton South
1 Chloe Smith was elected to the committee because she is Economic Secretary to the Treasury, but by convention generally does not attend or vote.
Source: Public Accounts Committee
Occasionally, the House of Commons orders changes to be made in terms of membership of select committees, as proposed by the Committee of Selection. Such changes are shown below.
Date Outgoing Member
Constituency → New Member
Constituency Source 2 November 2010 Eric Joyce MP (Labour) Falkirk → Dr Stella Creasy MP (Labour Co-op) Walthamstow Hansard 24 October 2011 Dr Stella Creasy MP (Labour Co-op) Walthamstow → Meg Hillier MP (Labour) Hackney South and Shoreditch Hansard Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP (Labour) Stirling Fiona Mactaggart MP (Labour) Slough 31 October 2011 Justine Greening MP (Conservative) Putney → Chloe Smith MP (Conservative) Norwich North Hansard
Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (1861–2008)
Year Chairman Party 1861-63 Sir Francis Tornhill Bearing Liberal 1864–1866 Rt Hon Edward Pleydell Bouverie Liberal 1866 Mr George Sclater-Booth Conservative 1867-68 Mr Hugh C E Childers Liberal 1869 Mr William Pollard Urquhart Liberal 1870-71 Rt Hon George Ward Hunt Conservative 1872-73 Mr George Sclater-Both Conservative 1874-76 Rt Hon John George Dodson Liberal 1877–1880 Lord Frederick Cavendish Liberal 1884-85 Sir Henry Holland Conservative 1886 Sir John Eldon Gorst Conservative 1887-88 Sir John Lubbock Liberal Unionist 1889-92 Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth Liberal 1893 Mr Edmond Wodehouse Liberal Unionist 1894-95 Sir Richard Temple Conservative 1896–1900 Mr Arthur O'Connor Irish National 1901-05 Rt Hon Sir Arthur Hayter Liberal 1906-08 Rt Hon Victor Christian William Cavendish Liberal Unionist 1908-18 Col Robert Williams Unionist 1919-20 Rt Hon Sir Francis Dyke Acland Liberal 1921-22 Mr Aneurin Williams Liberal 1923 Mr Frederick William Jowett JP Labour 1924 Lt Col Rt Hon Walter Edward Guinness Conservative 1924-29 Rt Hon Willian Graham JP Labour 1929-31 Mr Artur Michael Samuel Conservative 1931-38 Mr Morgan Jones Labour 1938-41 Rt Hon Frederick William Pethick-Lawrence Labour 1941-43 Lt Col Rt Hon Walter Elliot Unionist 1943-45 Lt Col Sir Assheton Pownall OBE TD Unionist 1946-48 Rt Hon Osbert Peake Conservative 1948-50 Mr Ralph Assheton Conservative 1950-51 1, Sir Ronald Cross; 2, Rt Hon Charles Waterhouse Conservative 1951-52 Mr Lewis John Edwards Labour 1952-59 Sir George Benson Labour 1959-63 Rt Hon Harold Wilson Labour 1963-64 Rt Hon ALN Douglas Houghton Labour 1964-70 Rt Hon John Boyd-Carpenter Conservative 1970-73 Rt Hon Harold Lever Labour 1972-73 Rt Hon Edmund Dell Acting due to Lever's illness Labour 1974-79 Rt Hon Edward DuCann Conservative 1979-83 Rt Hon Joel Barnett Labour 1983-97 Rt Hon Robert Sheldon Labour 1997–2001 Rt Hon David Davis Conservative 2001-10 Mr Edward Leigh Conservative 2010–present Rt Hon Margaret Hodge Labour
- Select Committee (Westminster System)
- British House of Commons
- List of Committees of the United Kingdom Parliament
- David McGee, The Overseers – Public Accounts Committees and Public Spending, Pluto Press, London 2002.
- Stapenhurst, Rick; Sahgal, Vinod; Woodley, William; Pelizzo, Riccardo; World Bank, 1 May 2005, Policy Research Working Paper WPS3613, Scrutinizing public expenditures: assessing the performance of public accounts committees
- Pelizzo, Riccardo, Stapenhurst, Rick, Saghal, Vinod and William Woodley, What Makes Public Accounts Committees Work?, Politics and Policy, vol. 34, n. 4, December 2006. pp. 774–793.
- Riccardo Pelizzo and Rick Stapenhurst, Strengthening Public Accounts Committees by Targeting Regional and Country Specific Weaknesses, in Anwar Shah (ed.), Performance Accountability and Combating Corruption, Washington DC, The World Bank, 2007, pp. 379–393.
- Jacobs, K. 1997. ‘A reforming accountability’, International Journal of Health Planning and Management 12: 169-85.
- Jacobs, K.1998. ‘Value for money auditing in New Zealand: competing for control in the public sector’, British Accounting Review 30: 343-360
- Jones, C. 1987. ‘The Origins of the Victorian Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee’, MA, University of Melbourne.
Current British parliamentary committees Commons
- Departmental: Business, Innovation and Skills · Communities and Local Government · Culture, Media and Sport · Defence · Education · Energy and Climate Change · Environment, Food and Rural Affairs · Foreign Affairs · Health · Home Affairs · International Development · Justice · Northern Ireland Affairs · Political and Constitutional Reform · Science and Technology · Scottish Affairs · Transport · Treasury · Welsh Affairs · Work and Pensions
- Topical: Arms Export Controls · Environmental Audit · European Scrutiny · Public Accounts · Public Administration · Regulatory Reform · Statutory Instruments
- General: Panel of Chairs · Public bill committee · Delegated Legislation Committees · European Committees · Northern Ireland Grand Committee · Regional Affairs Committee · Scottish Grand Committee · Welsh Grand Committee
- Internal: Administration · Finance and Services · Backbench Business · Liaison · Members' Expenses · Procedure · Selection · Standards and Privileges · Works of Art
- Topical: Communications · Constitution · Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform · Economic Affairs · European Union · Merits of Statutory Instruments · Science and Technology
- Private business: Hybrid Instruments · Standing Orders
- Internal: House · Liaison Committee · Privileges and Conduct · Procedure · Selection
- Domestic: Administration and Works · Information · Refreshment · Works of Art
- Select: Consolidation, &c., Bills · Human Rights · National Security Strategy · Statutory Instruments · Tax Law Rewrite Bills
- Other: Security
- Commons: House of Commons Commission (Administration Estimate Audit · Members Estimate · Members Estimate Audit) · Public Accounts Commission · Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission · Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
- Joint: Ecclesiastical Committee · Intelligence and Security
- Westminster system
- Committees of the British House of Commons
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