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New select committee proposed to provide scrutiny of highly confidential spending

15 April 2024

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today calls for the establishment of a new select committee, to consider sound financial practice and value for money in sensitive areas which are outside the remit of the statutory Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

In a report published today, the Committee cautions that there are a number of scrutiny gaps relating to sensitive Government expenditure. Two such areas are the defence nuclear enterprise and the UK's Special Forces.

The PAC warns that, extrapolating from government performance elsewhere, it is likely that there are problems with poor delivery or project performance which Parliament can neither see nor exercise positive influence over.

The report recommends the new select committee be established as soon as possible, and before the dissolution of the current Parliament.

It further recommends that the new committee, provided with the assistance of the National Audit Office, should have the specific remit of considering sound financial practice and value for money in some important but sensitive areas of expenditure outside the remit or practical working arrangements of the Defence Select Committee, Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy and the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Chair's comment

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“Parliament must no longer see through a glass darkly on whether value for money is being secured on confidential expenditure. There are of course sound reasons why certain areas of spending must be examined in a manner appropriate to their sensitivity. Such sensitivity is all the more reason why the processes around its scrutiny should be made robust. A new select committee would address the current gaps in how such matters are scrutinised, and the PAC would be pleased to work with the government to take this proposal forward.”

Further information

Image: Parliament Copyright