MPs 'shirking' financial scrutiny

Commons criticised over financial scrutiny
Commons criticised over financial scrutiny

Parliament is shirking its fundamental task of holding the government to account on its spending, a committee of senior MPs has said.

The Commons' liaison committee, made up of select committee chairmen, says MPs have the power to scrutinise financial matters but are not doing so with the detail required.

Partly to blame is the complexity of the current spending system, they say. This is divided into three "extremely complex" areas - estimates, resource accounts and departmental budgeting through spending reviews.

The "difficult consequences" this causes need to be alleviated through immediate action, the report says.

It says MPs need to be convinced that spending more of their time on financial scrutiny will be a "worthwhile use of their time".

Measures like the Treasury's alignment project, streamlining the three main financial arrangement methods, are making a small difference.

But it says much more needs to be done, including more time on the floor of the Commons and select committees devoted to scrutiny.

"For too long the House has shirked the task of providing itself with the means to carry out. [its duty of financial scrutiny] effectively, and it needs to be more assertive," the report concludes.

"The practical steps we have proposed are achievable, and would benefit the government as well as the House [of Commons]."

The Hansard Society welcomed the committee's proposals and urged parliament to do more to boost the government's accountability on its spending.

"Effective scrutiny of government spending is essential for the operation of good government," Alex Brazier of its parliament and government programme commented.

"Everyone - parliament, government and the public - has a strong interest in making sure that there is full transparency, debate and accountability of public money."


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