Public Accounts Committee (United Kingdom)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Committee of Public Accounts is a select committee of the British House of Commons. It is responsible for overseeing government expenditures, and to ensure they are effective and honest. The committee is seen as a crucial mechanism for ensuring transparency and accountability in government financial operations, having been described by Professor the Lord Hennessy as "the queen of the select committees...[which] by its very existence exert[s] a cleansing effect in all government departments".[1]


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 Baring. 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 1862 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.[2]

The form has since been replicated in virtually all Commonwealth of Nations and many non-Commonwealth countries. A minister from His Majesty's Treasury sits on the committee but, by convention, does not attend hearings. The Chair of the committee is always drawn from the main opposition party and is usually a former senior Minister.

The Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1866 appointed The Committee of Public Accounts to oversee the work of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG)[3] The Committee continues to be assisted by the 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.

Notable reports[edit]

The Public Accounts Committee has criticised numerous aspects of government spending over the years, including:


The Committee's members as of October 2022 are as follows:[11][12][13]

Member Party Constituency
Dame Meg Hillier MP (Chair) Labour and Co-operative Party Hackney South and Shoreditch
Shaun Bailey MP Conservative Party West Bromwich West
Dan Carden MP Labour Party Liverpool Walton
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP Conservative Party The Cotswolds
Mark Francois MP Conservative Party Rayleigh and Wickford
Louie French MP Conservative Party Old Bexley and Sidcup
Peter Grant MP Scottish National Party Glenrothes
Kate Green MP Labour Party Stretford and Urmston
Antony Higginbotham MP Conservative Party Burnley
Craig Mackinlay MP Conservative Party South Thanet
Sarah Olney MP Liberal Democrats Richmond Park
Kate Osamor MP Labour and Co-operative Party Edmonton
Angela Richardson MP Conservative Party Guildford
Nick Smith MP Labour Party Blaenau Gwent
Felicity Buchan MP Conservative Party Kensington

Changes since 2019[edit]

Date Outgoing Member
& Party
Constituency New Member
& Party
Constituency Source
21 September 2020 Bridget Phillipson MP (Labour) Houghton and Sunderland South Barry Gardiner MP (Labour) Brent North Hansard
9 November 2020 Gagan Mohindra MP (Conservative) South West Hertfordshire Shaun Bailey MP (Conservative) West Bromwich West Hansard
20 April 2021 Shabana Mahmood MP (Labour) Birmingham Ladywood Dan Carden MP (Labour) Liverpool Walton Hansard
25 May 2021 Bernard Jenkin MP (Conservative) Harwich and North Essex Mark Francois MP (Conservative) Rayleigh and Wickford Hansard
New seat Antony Higginbotham MP (Conservative) Burnley
13 July 2021 Olivia Blake MP (Labour) Sheffield Hallam Kate Osamor MP (Labour) Edmonton Hansard
30 November 2021 Kemi Badenoch MP (Conservative) Saffron Walden Helen Whately MP (Conservative) Faversham and Mid Kent Hansard
8 February 2022 Barry Gardiner MP (Labour) Brent North Kate Green MP (Labour) Stretford and Urmston Hansard
15 March 2022 Gareth Bacon MP (Conservative) Orpington Louie French MP (Conservative) Old Bexley and Sidcup Hansard
Richard Holden MP (Conservative) North West Durham Angela Richardson MP (Conservative) Guildford

2017-2019 Parliament[edit]

The chair was elected on 12 July 2017, with members being announced on 11 September 2017.[14][15]

Member Party Constituency
Meg Hillier MP (Chair) Labour and Co-op Hackney South and Shoreditch
Bim Afolami MP Conservative Hitchin and Harpenden
Heidi Allen MP Conservative South Cambridgeshire
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP Conservative The Cotswolds
Martyn Day MP SNP Linlithgow and East Falkirk
Chris Evans MP Labour and Co-op Islwyn
Caroline Flint MP Labour Don Valley
Luke Graham MP Conservative Ochil and South Perthshire
Andrew Jones MP Conservative Harrogate and Knaresborough
Gillian Keegan MP Conservative Chichester
Shabana Mahmood MP Labour Birmingham Ladywood
Nigel Mills MP Conservative Amber Valley
Layla Moran MP Liberal Democrats Oxford West and Abingdon
Bridget Phillipson MP Labour Houghton and Sunderland South
Gareth Snell MP Labour and Co-op Stoke-on-Trent Central

Changes 2017-2019[edit]

Date Outgoing Member
& Party
Constituency New Member
& Party
Constituency Source
5 February 2018 Andrew Jones MP (Conservative) Harrogate and Knaresborough Robert Jenrick MP (Conservative) Newark Hansard
20 February 2018 Heidi Allen MP (Conservative) South Cambridgeshire Anne Marie Morris MP (Conservative) Newton Abbot Hansard
Nigel Mills MP (Conservative) Amber Valley Lee Rowley MP (Conservative) North East Derbyshire
9 July 2018 Martyn Day MP (SNP) Linlithgow and East Falkirk Douglas Chapman MP (SNP) Dunfermline and West Fife Hansard
22 October 2018 Bim Afolami MP (Conservative) Hitchin and Harpenden Chris Davies MP (Conservative) Brecon and Radnorshire Hansard
Luke Graham MP (Conservative) Ochil and South Perthshire Nigel Mills MP (Conservative) Amber Valley
3 December 2018 Gillian Keegan MP (Conservative) Chichester Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP (Conservative) Berwick-upon-Tweed Hansard
21 June 2019 Chris Davies MP (Conservative) Brecon and Radnorshire Vacant Recall of member from Parliament[16]

2015-2017 Parliament[edit]

The chair was elected on 18 June 2015, with members being announced on 7 July 2015.[17][18]

Member Party Constituency
Meg Hillier MP (Chair) Labour and Co-op Hackney South and Shoreditch
Richard Bacon MP Conservative South Norfolk
Harriett Baldwin MP Conservative West Worcestershire
Deidre Brock MP SNP Edinburgh North and Leith
Kevin Foster MP Conservative Torbay
Stewart Jackson MP Conservative Peterborough
Clive Lewis MP Labour Norwich South
Nigel Mills MP Conservative Amber Valley
David Mowat MP Conservative Warrington South
Teresa Pearce MP Labour Erith and Thamesmead
Stephen Phillips MP Conservative Sleaford and North Hykeham
John Pugh MP Liberal Democrats Southport
Nick Smith MP Labour Blaenau Gwent
Karin Smyth MP Labour Bristol South
Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP Conservative Berwick-upon-Tweed

Changes 2015-2017[edit]

Date Outgoing Member
& Party
Constituency New Member
& Party
Constituency Source
26 October 2015 Clive Lewis MP (Labour) Norwich South Chris Evans MP (Labour and Co-op) Islwyn Hansard
Teresa Pearce MP (Labour) Erith and Thamesmead Caroline Flint MP (Labour) Don Valley
Nick Smith MP (Labour) Blaenau Gwent Bridget Phillipson MP (Labour) Houghton and Sunderland South
12 September 2016 Deidre Brock MP (SNP) Edinburgh North and Leith Phil Boswell MP (SNP) Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill Hansard
10 October 2016 Harriett Baldwin MP (Conservative) West Worcestershire Simon Kirby MP (Conservative) Brighton Kemptown Hansard
31 October 2016 Stewart Jackson MP (Conservative) Peterborough Charlie Elphicke MP (Conservative) Dover Hansard
David Mowat MP (Conservative) Brighton Kemptown Kwasi Kwarteng MP (Conservative) Spelthorne
4 November 2016 Stephen Phillips MP (Conservative) Sleaford and North Hykeham Vacant Resignation of member from Parliament[19]
28 November 2016 Vacant Anne Marie Morris MP (Conservative) Newton Abbot Hansard

2010-2015 Parliament[edit]

The chair was elected on 10 June 2010, with members being announced on 12 July 2010.[20][21]

Member Party Constituency
Margaret Hodge MP (Chair) Labour Barking
Richard Bacon MP Conservative South Norfolk
Steve Barclay MP Conservative North East Cambridgeshire
Jackie Doyle-Price MP Conservative Thurrock
Justine Greening MP Conservative Putney
Matt Hancock MP Conservative West Suffolk
Chris Heaton-Harris MP Conservative Daventry
Jo Johnson MP Conservative Orpington
Eric Joyce MP Labour Falkirk
Anne McGuire MP Labour Stirling
Austin Mitchell MP Labour Great Grimsby
Nick Smith MP Labour Blaenau Gwent
Ian Swales MP Liberal Democrats Redcar
James Wharton MP Conservative Stockton South

Changes 2010-2015[edit]

Date Outgoing Member
& Party
Constituency New Member
& Party
Constituency Source
2 November 2010 Eric Joyce MP (Labour) Falkirk Stella Creasy MP (Labour) Walthamstow Hansard
24 October 2011 Stella Creasy MP (Labour) Walthamstow Meg Hillier MP (Labour) Hackney South and Shoreditch Hansard
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
27 February 2012 Jo Johnson MP (Conservative) Orpington Stewart Jackson MP (Conservative) Peterborough Hansard
4 September 2012 Chloe Smith MP (Conservative) Norwich North Sajid Javid MP (Conservative) Bromsgrove
12 November 2012 Matt Hancock MP (Conservative) West Suffolk Guto Bebb MP (Conservative) Aberconwy Hansard
James Wharton MP (Conservative) Stockton South Justin Tomlinson MP (Conservative) North Swindon
25 November 2013 Sajid Javid MP (Conservative) Bromsgrove Nicky Morgan MP (Conservative) Loughborough Hansard
7 April 2014 Fiona Mactaggart MP (Labour) Slough Anne McGuire MP (Labour) Stirling Hansard
12 May 2014 Nicky Morgan MP (Conservative) Loughborough Andrea Leadsom MP (Conservative) South Northamptonshire Hansard
23 June 2014 Steve Barclay MP (Conservative) North East Cambridgeshire David Burrowes MP (Conservative) Enfield Southgate Hansard
30 June 2014 Ian Swales MP (Liberal Democrats) Redcar John Pugh MP (Liberal Democrats) Southport Hansard
8 September 2014 Justin Tomlinson MP (Conservative) North Swindon Stephen Phillips MP (Conservative) Sleaford and North Hykeham Hansard
8 December 2014 Jackie Doyle-Price MP (Conservative) Thurrock Stephen Hammond MP (Conservative) Wimbledon Hansard

Chairs (1861–present)[edit]

House of Commons standing orders give the party of the official Opposition the right to chair the committee.[22]

Year Chairman Party
1861–63 Sir Francis Tornhill Baring 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-Booth 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 Arthur 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 Rt Hon Ralph Assheton Conservative
1950–51 Sir Ronald Cross and Rt Hon Charles Waterhouse Conservative
1951–52 Mr John Edwards Labour
1952–59 Sir George Benson Labour
1959–63 Rt Hon Harold Wilson Labour
1963–64 Rt Hon A.L.N. 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 chair during Harold 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 Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh Conservative
2010–15 Rt Hon Dame Margaret Hodge Labour
2015–present Meg Hillier Labour and Co-operative

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Holding Government to Account: 150 years of the Committee of Public Accounts" (PDF). UK Parliament. 2007.
  2. ^ "Public Accounts—Committee Moved For". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 166. House of Commons. 31 March 1862. col. 329–330.
  3. ^ National Audit Office History of the National Audit Office, Accessed 25 September 2012
  4. ^ House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Central government's management of service contracts - Public Accounts Committee: conclusions and recommendations, published 28 April 2009, accessed 29 July 2022
  5. ^ Kentish, Benjamin (3 July 2018). "Government 'complacency' putting local councils at risk of bankruptcy, MPs warn". The Independent. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  6. ^ "NHS IT system one of 'worst fiascos ever', say MPs". BBC News. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Sellafield clean-up cost reaches 67.5bn, says report". BBC. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  8. ^ "UK lawmakers criticise management of Sellafield nuclear site". Reuters. 11 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  9. ^ "Covid-19: NHS Test and Trace 'no clear impact' despite £37bn budget". BBC News. 10 March 2021. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  10. ^ ""Unimaginable" cost of Test & Trace failed to deliver central promise of averting another lockdown". UK Parliament. 10 March 2021. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  11. ^ "Public Accounts Committee - Membership - Committees - UK Parliament". Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  12. ^ "Public Accounts Committee Volume 720: debated on Monday 17 October 2022". hansard.parliament.ukv. UK Hansard. 17 October 2022. Retrieved 18 October 2022. That Helen Whately be discharged from the Public Accounts Committee and Felicity Buchan be added.v
  13. ^ "Committees Volume 723: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2022". UK Hansard. 29 November 2022. Retrieved 30 November 2022. That James Wild be discharged from the Committee of Public Accounts.
  14. ^ "Speaker's Statement: Select Committee Chairs". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 627. Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Commons. 12 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Public Accounts". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 628. Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Commons. 11 September 2017.
  16. ^ "MP Chris Davies unseated after petition triggers by-election". BBC News. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  17. ^ "Speaker's Statement". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 597. Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Commons. 18 June 2015.
  18. ^ "Public Accounts". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 598. Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Commons. 7 July 2015.
  19. ^ "Tory MP Stephen Phillips quits over 'irreconcilable differences'". BBC News. 4 November 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  20. ^ "Speaker's Statement". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 511. Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Commons. 10 June 2010.
  21. ^ "Committees". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 513. Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Commons. 12 July 2010.
  22. ^ Standing Order 122B(8)(f)

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]