Posts Tagged ‘agricultural wages board’

The public bodies bill and sausages

01/11/2011, 08:47:52 AM

by Jon Trickett

There is a quote, whose origins allegedly range from Otto von Bismarck to an unknown Illinois state senator, that rings painfully true about the last year of the public bodies bill: there are two things you never want to let anyone see you make – laws and sausages. Quite. The process by which ministers have gone about reducing the number of quangos in the UK has been messy, and in many ways circumvented the norms of Parliamentary process.

I don’t disagree in principle with the aims of the bill. Indeed, in March 2010 we set out almost £500m of new savings by reducing the number of arms length bodies by 123 by 2012/13. Labour inherited 1,128 quangos in 1997 and axed almost 400 of them by the time we left office. There is certainly scope for consolidating them to reduce overheads but retain functions.

But the way in which this process has proceeded has been characterised by the same hasty, ill-thought-through approach to governing that we can see across all government departments.  The ideology of cutting without thinking, swinging without looking, with a lack of clear vision or philosophy on the functions of government, pervades the very core of this bill.

The majority of the bodies in the bill were set up as a result of reasoned and detailed debate in Parliament. The only appropriate way to consider abolition is with the same reasoned and detailed debate. Cabinet office ministers claim that detailed debate on each body will come at a later stage, but we know that secondary legislation isn’t typically dwelled on in Parliament to the extent that some of these bodies would deserve.


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