Thursday, May 21, 2009

How independent will this really be?

Yesterday I posted pointing out that the solution to expenses was not yet another Quango, and today my worst fears have been confirmed when I read the breifing paper of the proposals from Downing Street. It states that,
The new body would be appointed by Parliament to work independently of Parliament.
So apparently politicians cannot be trusted to self-regulate, but they can be trusted to appoint the people to regulate them? As Guido pointed out yesterday,

We have been here before, the Commissioner for Standards was a political appointment to watch over the integrity and honesty of politicians. When Elizabeth Filkin naively took her job seriously she was hounded out of office.
This is not a proposal to mend a broken system, this is a a proposal to fix the system under the well spun veil of independence.

12 comments:

Robert said...

We all know whats going to happen, what we need now urgently is an election.

Mark M said...

Well found.

Although to be fair, "Gordon Brown doesn't do as he says" is hardly a news story these days. How long until the election?

Geoff said...

You're quite right. There are at least five reasons why this is a rotten idea:

1. The independence is illusory - if the government appoints members of the 'independent' body, then it can set their terms of reference, limit their powers, decide their remuneration and ultimately fire them - so how independent will they really be?

2. It's an abdication of responsibility - MPs must accept the responsibility themselves for creating, monitoring and complying with a new system. If an outside body sets the rules, then MPs will again be able to hide behind the excuse that "I was only obeying the rules."

3. It misses an opportunity to retrieve some respect for MPs - plenty of other bodies and professions have rules that oblige their members to make a judgement about behaving honourably, decently, reputably, etc, so MPs should set an example by applying the same standard to their own affairs, and enforcing the standard.

4. It's an admission of failure, as others have pointed out - if MPs can't even run their own affairs, why should we trust them to run the country?

5. and who is going to want to serve on a body like this - where will the government find respected and reputable people to do the job of telling MPs how to behave properly, and keeping MPs on the straight and narrow?

Letters From A Tory said...

I'm still waiting for confirmation that this will not be a privatised regulator that is exempt from FOI requests. Sir Stuart Bell's original proposal was to privatise the Fees Office, and I haven't heard any concerted move away from that position from Gordon Brown or Harriet Harman.

Witterings From Witney said...

Dizzy - got a link to the briefing paper pse?

dizzy said...

http://www.parliament.uk/deposits/depositedpapers/2009/DEP2009-1474.doc

Witterings From Witney said...

Thank You!

Anonymous said...

And if this quango is set up as an independant company, a la ACPO, then it would be exempt from FOI requests and the troughing can continue unabated.

View from the Solent said...

Geoff (at 09:36),
I find a problem with your point 3 ".. plenty of other bodies and professions have rules that oblige their members to make a judgement about behaving honourably, decently, reputably, etc, .."

You make the (implied) assumption that being an MP is a profession. Can't agree with that one. Can't find any record of a professional body which proscribes a course of study and/or which sets qualifying exams for them.

Richard Holloway said...

Why don't we get each of the parties to go through each others expense claims?
Each of the political parties would have to employ professional auditors to go through them, but each party would fully disclose to each other their expenses. Then it would strike the fear of God into them that any wrongdoing would be immediately pounced upon.

yokel said...

Anonymous said...

And if this quango is set up as an independant company, a la ACPO, then it would be exempt from FOI requests and the troughing can continue unabated.
Or alternatively it could follow the ACPO Ltd model a bit more and declare itself "in equal and active partnership with Government", thereby awarding itself the privilege of making policy and enforcement to suit its own choice. And campaign for additional powers.

One only has to look at how the "Standards Board for England" has turned local councillors from representing the people into yes-men for the council's officers! I expect nothing less from this supposedly independent guardian of standards in public life.

We are halfway through a very English coup d'etat.

Sam Duncan said...

Told you.

There's one way an independent body could be made to work, and that's if it was randomly selected from the general public, like a jury. But given the reluctance of people to serve on a jury for a few days, I can't see that being very popular.

I suppose it could be directly elected, with very strict rules for candidates. Say... over 35, never held elected office, never been disqualified from directorship of a company, no financial links to any political party. You could maybe even require accountancy qualifications. That might work, but it would be difficult to enforce the qualifications, especially the ban on links to political parties (which I think would be absolutely necessary).

Of course, neither of these will come about. They'll appoint the new quango from their chums, fire one or two pour encourager les autres, and carry on as if nothing had happened.