Letter from Chair of the Public Accounts
Committee and the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee
to the Prime Minister
Last week you kindly offered to appear before the
Public Accounts Committee to explain what discussions had taken
place in the Cabinet about the aircraft carriers.
Neither we, nor the National Audit Office, have any
intention of questioning the policy decisions that were taken
as part of the Defence Review. Our interest is solely in value
for money, and in substantiating your assertion, made on 19 October
2010, that "we were left in a situation where even cancelling
the second carrier would cost more than to build it".
Both the Public Accounts Committee and the Treasury
Select Committee are concerned to be reassured on these points.
The National Audit Office told the Public Accounts
Committee that without seeing the relevant information in the
Cabinet Committee papers in question, they could not gain a clear
understanding of the way in which the cost, affordability, military
capability and industrial implications of the alternative Carrier
Strike options were drawn together. Nor can the assertion that
it would have been more expensive to cancel than to continue be
Under the 1983 Act, there is no bar on the National
Audit Office seeing policy papers. Indeed the National Audit Office
told us that it was unprecedented for them to be denied access
to any documentation including Cabinet papers, which they as auditors
In the interests of full transparency and accountability
to parliament, it is vital that the National Audit Office has
unfettered access to all relevant documents and information to
judge the value for money of Government actions.
We would therefore ask that you now immediately release
the information the auditors need.
When these papers have been made available to the
NAO and they have been able to incorporate the relevant information
into their VFM assessment, we would like to return to you on whether
oral evidence is appropriate.
18 July 2011