Douglas Carswell

09 JUN 2016

Give select committees genuine power

Until recently, a certain kind of pundit was dismissive about select committees. Not anymore.

The extraordinary revelations about Sports Direct and BHS this week have shown how effective Parliamentary select committees can be. Just imagine what they could do if they had some real clout.

One of the fundamental roles of Parliament is to keep the Government in check. But - unsurprisingly – Governments have progressively taken away its power to do so.

Take the most important piece of legislation every year: the Budget.

Until the 1930s, individual MPs had the right to amend the Budget. But today, hundreds of billions of pounds just go through on the nod. Spending – and debt - keeps increasing because there is no one to keep it in check.

But select committees could give Parliament the means to serve its purpose. Instead of merely holding business leaders to account, they should be empowered to do the same for Government.

Select committees should have the right to veto major public appointments in confirmation hearings, and dismiss officials if they're not up to scratch. They should also be able to amend and block the budgets of every Government department.

Too radical? I'm not the only one to advocate much greater powers for select committees. Five years ago, Parliament's Liaison Committee put a similar case to the Government. Have a guess whether the Government accepted their recommendations.

We won't get effective government with a toothless legislature. Select committees have proved their worth. Now let's empower them.

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