Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is a quango really the solution?

Dan Hannan has an interesting piece over on his Telegraph blog noting that Gordon Brown's solution for an independent regulator of MPs expenses is essentially palming the issue off to yaQ (Yet Another Quango) and will actually make matter worse.

I must admit, when I listened to Brown banging on about the wonders of an independent regulator, I did find myself thinking "who watches the watchers?". After all, we have all manner of independent regulators already which simply layer yet more political appointees in virtually non-jobs.

Crucially though, as Dan points out, the creation of an independent statutory quango will impact on Parliamentary sovereignty. Surely it would just be better for full transparency of expenses claims by MPs from the moment they are submitted, and other instruments, like recall laws, to make sure the MP is accountable to their electorate?

The solution to expenses is surely not even larger unaccountable Governmental bodies? Is it?


Sam Duncan said...

No. It's pathetic. It's not the inability of Parliament per se to self-regulate that has led to the current mess; it's its current members' (which is not the same thing). An independent regulator of Parliament is all but impossible; who appoints it? Parliament? Ask Elizabeth Filkin how well that works.

The best resolution to the problem is to kick all the corrupt MPs out and elect a Parliament with some integrity. It's pretty obvious why the current gang of professional career politicians dismissed that one out of hand in favour of yet another System they can manipulate and subvert.

Incidentally, I noticed Brown disparaging “19th century rules”. The entire remuneration scheme for MPs - both expenses and the basic salary - was set up in the 20th Century. The current one dates from 1971. We need to return to the 19th Century ethos of Parliament, albeit adapted for the modern world, with MPs who are there out of a sense of service to their country, not because they can haul in a six-figure salary without any demonstration of competence beyond winning a popularity contest.

Oldrightie said...

Brown's motto is "If it's broke, don't fix it". What an idiot.

Sue said...

Tony Sharp says the same thing : The Consequences of letting the Speaker dictate terms"independent regulars" (his link)

"The nature of the role of the Speaker will change. There will no longer be a Speaker who is in charge as chief executive. He will be procedural and ceremonial."

I'm not feeling terribly good about the whole deal to be honest.

BrianSJ said...

The solleweshon is to copy the US Congress, as someone pointed out recently. They get their office costs covered transparently, but travel and subsistence comes out of a fixed salary and is up to them. Given the much bigger distances and travel costs/times, they have proved it can work. It would put MPs on the same basis as taxpayers, which has to be the starting point, and means that we don't need to laugh at their receipts.

Mark M said...

An echo to a Tom Harris post

"Gordon, my dog has no nose"
"I'd best appoint a quango to look into it"

It's the universal solution for Brown. When anything goes wrong, his answer is to give it to a quango. It's disgraceful. Can he not make a real decision?

Aaaaargh said...

At the end of my rant on www.aaaaargh.wordpress.com I've suggested a way to make MP's accountable

John Ionides said...

I agree that yaQ is not the right solution. My feeling is that the real problem that underlies this whole expenses malarkey is that the political class has become detached from the general population. That is what you need to fix; not build in another layer of unaccountability in the form of another unelected body.

WHiffler said...

Sod Esther Rantzen standing for Luton South - appoint her as i/c Members allowances.

Half of any claim she disallows goes to pay for childline.

BOF2BS said...

Self regulation is out!

Big idea required prior to May 2010.

Alex said...

Presumably it would be called OFFTROUGH.

If MP's can't regulate themselves with oversight from the voters they shouldn't be there.

2 points:

1. The reason most gentlemen's clubs aren't dens of iniquity is that the members have very high standards regarding the membvers they admit, and members appreciate that membership is a privilege.

2. The reason this affair has blown up is because of freedom of information and public reaction. ANything which reduces the accountability to the general public will only result in a repeat at some time in the future.

An easier solution that doesn't require more oversight is to set the expenses rules in law and make breaches a criminal offence punishable therough the courts / CPS & leading to expulsion from parliament. Put that in place and MP's will clean up their acts pretty quickly.

Gareth said...

The yet another quango route is so MPs can shirk their responsibility even more. They tried it with the Fees Office and we haven't wholly fallen for it. No one made them submit those claims.

Transparent expense claims and rules, including refused claims. Plus a means to recall MPs from Parliament.

As Parliament should reassert it's natural authority over Government by not accepting Gordon's proposals, so we should assert our authority over our MPs by being able to get rid of them when enough people want to.

They must be made to realise that Parliament is sovereign and must remain so. The authority must remain with them as they are the only ones who answer to us.

Middle Englander said...

How about a quango of the people, aka the court of public opinion?

MPs file claims on-line, his/her constituents vote on the acceptability of the claim. A majority approve within say, 14 days, and the claim is paid. A majority against - tough.

Anonymous said...

It will be a case of "the blind leading the blind" if you can see the analogy.

(I'll get me coat...)