22 AUGUST 1958, Page 6

A Spectator's Notebook

WHO WILL CONTROL Our controllers? I had long regarded the Committee of Public Accounts with respectful awe, admiring the way its criticisms of public overspending cut a swathe through bureaucratic cant: and when, last week, it transpired that the Committee had made a mistake in one of its earlier reports, I was not greatly concerned. But I have been shocked by the complacency of the exculpatory letter which the Committee's Chairman, Sir George Benson, has since sent to the Manchester Guardian, in reply to the Guardian's sensible leading article on the subject. Sir George admits that his committee accepted evidence against a firm of consulting engineers without bothering to check it—evidence which was 'gravely in- accurate and misleading.' But he puts forward the grotesque excuse that the Committee did not check its facts 'because it does not normally examine non-official witnesses.' In fact, only after the official evidence was found to be inaccurate did it occur to the Committee to take 'the almost unprecedented step of summoning a non-official witness, from the University of Manchester.'