New UK business minister promises to "get ball rolling" on audit reform

Huw Jones
·1 min read
Weekly cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's new business minister promised on Tuesday to "get the ball rolling" on long delayed changes to rules for auditing financial accounts, but stopped short of committing to legislating soon.

More than a year after findings were published from the last of three separate reviews into auditing that were prompted by a string of corporate failures, Britain has yet to introduce legislation to implement recommended reforms.

Kwasi Kwarteng, who was named earlier this month to replace Alok Sharma as business secretary, told members of Parliament's business committee on Tuesday that a 'white paper' proposal for legislation was "literally on my desk when I entered the office".

"I am keen to see that white paper actually hit the ground so that we can start a discussion," he said, although he suggested that legislation was not necessarily coming soon.

"It's not the be all and end all, it's not as if we are going to be legislating next week on all the reforms, but we really have to get the ball rolling," said Kwarteng.

"There have been lots and lots of reports, we have had lots and lots of debate, but now we just need to push this thing forward."

When Sharma took up office a year ago, the business committee called on him to press ahead. But parliament's timetable has been clogged with Brexit and COVID-19 business.

Some structural reforms are being introduced voluntarily by the Big Four accountancy firms, who are now waiting to see how far Kwarteng wants to increase competition. Some accountants say Britain may not want to go out on a limb after Brexit to make changes seen as potentially harming UK competitiveness.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Peter Graff)