On 15th July 2013, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd and Rt Hon. John Sentamu, took part in the Report Stage of the Government’s Local Audit and Accountability Bill. The Archbishop queried the inclusion of the term “fair view” in an amendment on a clause dealing with the general duties of auditors. The amendment, tabled by the Government, was agreed to.
The Archbishop of York: My Lords, on Amendment 12, if the statement is true, are not the words “fair view” fatuous? Could you have a true statement which needs qualifying as being unfair? If it is true, it is true. Are those warm words, are they warming up the word “true”? What do they add, those words “fair view”? If it is true, it is true.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (Government response): My Lords, unfortunately in accountancy there is a certain jargon. “True and fair view” is jargon used by firms of accountants and auditors from time immemorial, probably since the formation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, which was the first institute.
My query is whether this is not something which could be included in the external auditors’ audit report in the normal way. Currently, the external auditors’ audit report will say that the accounts have been true and fair and all the other jargon that goes with it in a format which has evolved over the years. The amendment seems to provide that the auditors must be satisfied that the local authority presents its accounts in a true and fair way. If that be the case, I wonder whether my noble friend can say, either now or in writing, whether the auditors’ report itself will need to be amended. Currently, the auditors’ reports just say that the accounts are, in their opinion, true and fair—or words of that nature. Now we seem to be saying that the external auditor must be satisfied that the local authority has presented its accounts in a true and fair way, which seems to be going beyond the opinion that those figures are true and fair. I know that we have a jargon and that the statement should be true but not fair seems completely wrong, but this is a form of words which has been used by accountants for years and is being replicated in the Bill. Continue reading “Archbishop of York takes part in debate on Local Audit and Accountability Bill”